Sports from the Basement

Jamie Vardy Can’t Stop Scoring

If you are a fan of the game of football (or soccer for us Americans out there), you’d be hard pressed to find a more entertaining team across the European landscape than the English Premier League’s Leicester City.  They play a style of football that would entice even the staunchest of detractors of the game to watch.  It would be insulting to call them a rag-tag group of players, but the Foxes aren’t your typical Premier League European place contenders.  Former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri has made the most of this lot though and they seem to be fully entrenched in a top half of the table battle after making the greatest of escapes from the bottom of it just one year ago.  Most of all, Leicester City is on its current roll because striker Jamie Vardy just cannot stop putting the ball in the back of the net.

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It wasn’t that long ago that Vardy was plying his trade in non-league football for the likes of Stocksbridge Park Steels FC and FC Halifax Town.  If those names don’t sound familiar don’t feel bad.  Stocksbridge currently plies their wares in the English football pyramid’s eighth tier.  Halifax Town came about after the original club, Halifax Town AFC went into administration.  They currently play in the fifth level of the pyramid, the vaunted National League.

Vardy was a goal scoring machine on those levels, putting home a combined goals in 148 games between the two stops.  What was surprising about the haul is that it came after Vardy was deemed ill-fitting for the Sheffield Wednesday youth system, the team Vardy had supported all his life.  The Owls said Vardy was too small to survive as a striker and it left the youngster broken to the point that he nearly took off a full year from the game.  He contemplated quitting all together before Sunday league football reignited the spark.

He was making just £30 at his first club, but that didn’t stop Vardy from making his mark.  After spending four years toiling in obscurity, Vardy got his first big break when Fleetwood Town came calling.  They were on the brink of the Football League and Vardy was very influential in their promotion to League Two.  He would score goals in bunches in both the league and in the FA Cup, with Fleetwood making it to the third round.  That record got him to where he is today with Leicester.

And where he is right now is one of the surprise teams in the entire Premier League.  His signing at the time was non-league record of £1 million, and he proved himself worth every cent of the fee and the ensuing hype.  He helped the Foxes win promotion to the top flight in the 2013-14 season, and burst on the scene in Leicester’s shocking 5-3 victory over Manchester United in the opening month of the campaign.  Even then nobody could have foreseen what Vardy would be doing this year.

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With his goal yesterday against West Bromwich Albion, Vardy has now scored in eight consecutive league games.  He shares the honor with Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge (2014) and Manchester United legend Ruud van Nistelrooy (2002 & 2003) as the only men in the history of the Premier League to score in as many consecutive games.

The streak has been made that much more remarkable by the fact that in six of those games his goal either tied the game or gave Leicester the lead.  He has 11 goals on the year and is showing no signs of slowing down.  Vardy also has the second leading scorer in the Premiership, Algerian international Riyad Mahrez, getting plenty of scoring opportunities.  In the Premier League those are at a premium so it makes Vardy’s accomplishments amplified.

Leicester sit third in the Premier League right now and Vardy is firmly entrenched in the Player of the Year race.  Both of those things may not hold up over the rigors of the Premier League season, but for now it is something to behold.  Jamie Vardy is the epitome of a rags to riches story in every sense of the adage.  From a middling youth academy reject with a side job to far and away the top scorer in the most watched league in the world, his tale should be an inspiration.  For Leicester City fans, they are hoping this tale has some more pages to be written.

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