Jamie Vardy

Jamie Vardy – The Making Of A Leicester City Legend

Ten years ago today (18 May), Leicester City’s new signing stood alone in the centre circle at King Power Stadium, looking around the 32,000-capacity home of the Foxes. Nobody knew it at the time, but it would one day be remembered as a momentous event in English football.
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It was an early summer signing without any real fanfare. It was so early in fact that he didn’t even have a new kit to hold up for photographers. A hoodie emblazoned with ‘LCFC’ had to do. There was some discussion about the fee, but the wider football world didn't take too much notice. 

The skinhead striker which City had just signed was called Jamie Vardy. Born in Sheffield, Vardy started out at his beloved Wednesday, but was released at the age of just 16. He was a rough diamond in non-league, scoring for fun at Stocksbridge Park Steels, Halifax Town and then Fleetwood Town.

A switch to King Power Stadium represented a jump of three divisions for whippet-like Vardy. It was a first taste of professional football at a club intent on returning to the Premier League. Just weeks earlier, City's new 25-year-old forward was playing for Fleetwood in the Blue Square Conference. 

The Club had beaten several others to Vardy's signature, who grew up in the shadow of Hillsborough in the early 1990s. A visit to Sheffield Wednesday legend and Leicester manager Nigel Pearson's house maybe helped tempt him to pick the Foxes, but City showed the most faith in him too.

They believed in him.

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Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy

Jamie Vardy is revealed as a Leicester City player on 18 May, 2012.

They were prepared, according to reports at least, to part with over £1M for his services. Never before had a player outside English football's professional pyramid demanded such a fee. It placed an expectation onto the shoulders of a man who, five years earlier, earned just £30 a week at Stocksbridge.

There were some who questioned Leicester's logic when the transfer was announced, not aware it would come to be viewed as one of the shrewdest deals in the history of football. That criticism only grew when Vardy's debut campaign at City ended with a tally of just four Championship goals in 26 fixtures.

Vardy has been honest about this time of his life. He wanted to leave, to return to Fleetwood, and build his confidence back up again. Pearson – along with assistants Craig Shakespeare and Steve Walsh – wouldn't let that happen. They had faith in him and persuaded their No.9 to stay at the Club.

Although Vardy was largely a fringe player at the time, the Club was still reeling from a horrendous experience in the Championship play-off semi-finals at Watford. It would have been easy for Pearson, whose position was also reportedly under threat, to let Vardy leave and entirely rebuild his forward line.

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Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy

Two years into his Leicester City story, Jamie Vardy becomes a Football League champion.

On the opening day of the 2013/14 season, away at Middlesbrough, Vardy started up front. He scored the winner too. Nine months later, the former Sheffield Wednesday reject was holding the Football League trophy aloft, contemplating the reality of becoming a Premier League footballer. 

His potential had finally been realised. He was lethal in the box, faster than a peregrine falcon, and committed like you wouldn't believe. There was real, untapped talent there. Sixteen goals in the second tier had helped the Club end its decade-long exile from the Premier League.

Another enormous step up in quality was next up though. Premier League football lay on the horizon for Leicester City.

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Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy

Making headlines around the world with a sensational performance against Manchester United.

Like in the Championship, Vardy needed time to settle at a new level. Leonardo Ulloa was a marquee signing that summer and it was the Argentinian who started up front with David Nugent for the early weeks of the 2014/15 season. He'd have to wait until 21 September for his full Premier League debut.

The visitors to the East Midlands that afternoon were Louis van Gaal's Manchester United. The Red Devils named an XI including Angel Di María, Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie. A global TV audience came for a routine Man Utd win but stayed for an extraordinary Leicester comeback. 

Like a raging bull, Vardy chased down red shirts in front of him as though his life depended on it. He ended the day with four assists and a maiden top-flight goal. The most celebrated team in Premier League history had been swept aside. It ended 5-3 to City and Vardy's name was on everyone's lips.

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Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy

Into the record books – after scoring in 11 consecutive Premier League games.

Although only netting five top-flight goals in total, Vardy was an integral part of Leicester's eventual 'great escape' from relegation. The latter of those five strikes came in a final-day 5-1 triumph over Queens Park Rangers – before Vardy's debut for England in a friendly fixture against the Republic of Ireland.

The Jamie Vardy story already had its Hollywood ending. The credits could roll with the sight of him taking his place on the field at Aviva Stadium in Dublin adorning the iconic Three Lions on his shirt. But the plot wasn't finished there – not even close. The stars were aligning. More glory awaited. 

If there was a swell of optimism after that ending to the 2014/15 season, it quickly fizzled away that summer. Pearson's departure created a significant rupture at the Club and the appointment of Italian Claudio Ranieri did little to dissuade the bookies from slapping tiny odds on Leicester to be relegated. 

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Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy

A Premier League champion – against all the odds.

A value of 5,000/1 was placed on City's title chances too. Vardy and his team-mates, though, had grown accustomed to defying the odds. Vardy netted during the opening-day 4-2 win over Sunderland and, after two goalless games, again away at AFC Bournemouth. The streak had begun.

Aston Villa, Stoke City, Arsenal, Norwich City, Southampton, Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion, Watford... Vardy scored against them all – in a row. A 10th successive goalscoring game in the Premier League arrived at St. James' Park in a 3-0 win over Newcastle United which put Leicester top of the table.

Ruud van Nistelrooy was the only player to have previously scored 11. The Dutchman's former club, Manchester United, were next up for the Foxes on Filbert Way. Naturally, the world's media sniffed out their next news cycle and all eyes were on Leicester's No.9 on the evening of 28 November, 2015. 

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Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy

Jamie Vardy celebrates scoring for England against Wales at UEFA EURO 2016.

An already dream-like season hit new heights that night in the 24th minute as Kasper Schmeichel recycled a Man Utd corner out to Christian Fuchs. After a no-look pass from the Austrian, who'd somehow found himself on the right wing, Vardy was away, closing in on David de Gea's goal.

A composed finish provoked an almighty roar – still one of the loudest ever heard at King Power Stadium. History had been made by a man who just five years earlier combined football with a job in a factory creating prosthetic limbs. "It's eleven, it's heaven for Jamie Vardy!" roared commentator Martin Tyler.

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Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy

The 2019/20 Premier League Golden Boot winner – Jamie Vardy.

Vardy's incredible form was no flash in the pan. He'd end the season on 24 goals, becoming the first Leicester player to net 20 top-flight goals since Gary Lineker. Two years on from lifting the Championship trophy, Vardy held the Premier League trophy aloft in May 2016 on the Club's greatest-ever day.

He was the Premier League Player of the Season and the FWA Footballer of the Year. From Bracken Moor in Stocksbridge to worldwide acclaim. He'd go on to score in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages, against Sevilla and Atlético Madrid, as the Foxes reached the quarter-finals of Europe's platinum competition. Aside from that maiden year in the top flight, he's never not registered double figures for the Football Club in the Premier League. 

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Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy

From the early rounds, to a winner in the final of the FA Cup in 2021.

He's scored for England at a European Championships and helped Gareth Southgate's men reach the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.

In 2019/20, Vardy bagged the Premier League Golden Boot. A year later, after previously starring in the early preliminary rounds for Stocksbridge, Halifax and Fleetwood, he won the FA Cup too – Leicester City's first-ever success in the world's oldest and most lauded knockout club tournament. 

The English language doesn't have the words to truly describe what Jamie Vardy – a striker with another 16 goals to his name this season – means to Leicester City Football Club. The roar heard every matchday on Filbert Way whenever his name is read aloud is perhaps a clearer indicator.

Ten years on from his arrival in the East Midlands, if we had to pick a single word, only one seems fitting. Legend. 

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