As good football stories go, Jamie Vardy’s is one that is up there with them with the best of them. The 32-year-old may be a legend for Leicester City these days, but at one point, that looked very unlikely to happen.
Seventeen years ago, a 15-year-old Vardy found himself sat in front of his coaches at Sheffield Wednesday hearing the news no young player wants; they were letting him go. Their reason? He was too small.
A year in the football wilderness followed before Vardy decided to take another shot at his lifelong dream of becoming a footballer.
Stocksbridge decided to hand him his chance in 2003, and he worked his way up through the clubs ranks, featuring in the first team for three years from 2007 to 2010.
That’s when Halifax came calling, and the real climb to the top began. Two seasons there saw him bag 28 goals in 41 games and earn the attention of Fleetwood, where he bagged 34 in 42 games in his single season at the club.
That form earned him the move to Leicester City, who made him the most expensive player in Non-League history with a £1m move in 2012.
Since then it’s been nothing but an upward trajectory for Vardy with the Foxes, with him currently on 110 goals in 275 games for the club.
His time at the King Power has seen him win the Premier League in arguably the most significant title success of all time, break records along the way and star for England.
It all wouldn’t have happened if Vardy hadn’t have decided to return as a youngster, though, and he often looks back to the time he decided he wasn’t cut out for it after all.
“It was 2002 when I was fired from the Sheffield Wednesday Academy at the age of fifteen,” he told L’Equipe.
“Since I was a kid, I had only one obsession: to become a professional footballer. And there, suddenly, when I did not expect it, at a meeting at the end of the season with my coaches, I was told that I was not kept because I was too small … it was terrible.
From there, I stopped playing football for almost a year. At the weekend, I did everything and anything but not football. I said to myself: ‘There’s no point in continuing, I’m not made for that.’”
Now five years into his Premier League journey, and it’s fair to say Vardy has no intentions of giving up on it just yet.
He remains a crucial player for Leicester and particularly under Brendan Rodgers, a manager who he has rediscovered his once lethal goalscoring form under (12 goals and two assists in 15 games).
And he insists he’s physically got enough left in the tank to provide joy to Leicester fans for a few more years.
“I continue to play football with the same mentality as at Stocksbridge Park, that is to say, to give the best of myself and have fun,” he added.
“I never see beyond the horizon of the next match… And if I’m still performing well with my club at thirty-two years old, it is precisely thanks to this state of mind.
“Having started in the Premier League at 27 years old makes me fully enjoy each day, without planning anything.
“And physically I do not feel used at all; I still have in my legs to play several seasons in the Premier League.”