Success Stories: The Player Who Has Gone from Non-League to the Brink of the World Cup

From playing in the non-league he has become a household name.

In 2016, he helped Leicester City make history by winning the Premier League, and this summer he will achieve the pinnacle of international football by playing in the World Cup.

Born in 1987 in Sheffield, Vardy’s career began with Sheffield Wednesday. He was released from the club at the age of 16, due to concerns that he was too small to play. He was determined to continue and returned to club football playing for local Stocksbridge Park Steels, and subsequently with Fleetwood Town in 2011. Vardy scored 31 goals that season for the club and ultimately attracted the attention of Leicester City, who at the time were a Championship Club.

Leicester paid Fleetwood a record £1 million for Vardy; the highest fee paid for a non-league player. Manager Nigel Pearson, however, knew talent when he saw it and Vardy’s performances for Leicester justified his price tag. In the Premier League winning season, Vardy became the only player in the league to score in 11 consecutive matches, surpassing the 12-year record held by Ruud Van Nistelrooy.

While Vardy’s story is an inspiring one, unfortunately, it is an exception rather than the norm. Many new players starting out at club football academies are let go by the club around the age of 16 if they can’t make the cut. Grassroots support and funding, therefore, needs a boost in both personnel and funding, if youngsters are to be encouraged to go on. The FA has recently announced an influx of funding to grassroots initiatives, despite recent cuts. Better grassroots initiatives can help more players achieve what Vardy managed to accomplish in such a short time, as well as provide homegrown talent for clubs and the national squad.

This season, Vardy is still Leicester’s top scorer, making him a favourite for Gareth Southgate’s England squad. If selected it will be his first World Cup appearance and he’ll look to improve upon England’s poor performance in the last tournament in Brazil, where England failed to advance out of the group stage, finishing last in Group D after defeats to Italy and Uruguay. Their draw with Costa Rica, who reached the quarter-finals, didn’t do them any favours either and they went home after a dismal performance. Vardy will be hoping to cement his place in football history this summer as not just a club legend, but also an international star to rival Alan Shearer or Michael Owen.

The 31-year-old striker remains an integral part of Leicester City’s incredible Premier League winning team. An incredible rise for a non-league player just 6 years ago, Vardy has become a star at home as well as on the international stage, helping England qualify for the World Cup in Russia. His remarkable achievements are already inspiring youngsters, with grassroots football enrollment recently on the rise for both sexes.

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Posted in Football / Soccer, Funding

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