Leicester City may very well be sporting the greatest turnaround in football history in this 2015-16 Premier League season. Currently holding the top spot in the best league of English football, the foxes weren’t always the powerhouse that we see today, defeating historically great teams like Chelsea and Manchester City. Indeed, up until this season, they had been rather insignificant, only recently earning back a spot in the premier league after being relegated to the third division of English football.1
But the fairy tale doesn’t end with Leicester City. Their star player, Jamie Vardy, arguably has a more impressive story. From a young age, Vardy had dreams of one day being a professional footballer, but as a teenager he was released from the youth academy of Sheffield Wednesday, who currently play in English soccer’s second division (Scott). Determined not to give up, Vardy continued to play football with the Stocksbridge Park Steels, a team in the seventh-tier of English football. Working at a carbon fiber factory to make ends meet and receiving a criminal assault conviction, Vardy probably experienced his most trying years with the Steels.2
Of course, that meant it only got better from there.
Vardy was an exceptional player, scoring 66 goals in 107 league games for Stocksbridge. Many teams took an interest in Vardy, and in May 2012 the 25-year old was bought by Leicester City from Fleetwood from 1 million euros. Although he had finally earned professional status, his struggles were far from over. A poor first season performance left him wondering if he should continue with football.2
But like he had always done in the past, he persevered. In the 2013-2014 Leicester earned back a spot in the premier league with the help of Vardy’s 16 goals2, and the man was once working at a factory to get by would now be playing in the top league of English football. His first season saw him put on a spectacular performance in Leicester’s win over Manchester United as Leicester managed to retain their spot in the Premier League.3
His second season probably still can’t believe what it’s seeing so far.
Vardy started the season in fantastic form. On August 29, Jamie scored a late penalty against Bournemouth to tie up the final score. In his next match, he scored against Aston Villa. And then against Stoke. Then against Arsenal. And again against Norwich. On November 21, he scored just before halftime against Newcastle. But this goal was special. It meant that Vardy had scored in 10 consecutive Premier League matches, tying the record set by Manchester United’s Ruud van Nistelrooy.4
But could possibly Vardy beat the record? Perhaps there was no better opponent to stop him than Manchester United themselves. But they couldn’t, and after receiving a wonderful through ball behind United’s defence, Vardy claimed his place in the record books.4
The season far from over, but Vardy and Leicester City have already staged one of the greatest stories in football history. It’s a wonderful tale of hard work, perseverance, and pure talent, and it’s hard not to hope that it ends in a title for Vardy and the foxes.
- Jim Knight, “Are Vardy, Mahrez & Ranieri REALLY top of the league? The fairytale rise of Leicester City,” (19 Dec. 2015), Goal, http://www.goal.com/en/news/1862/premier-league/2015/12/19/18420872/are-vardy-mahrez-ranieri-really-top-of-the-league-the (accessed 18 Feb. 2016).
- Adam Shergold, “Jamie Vardy’s rags-to-riches story from non-league to England international will inspire thousands of lower league players,” (29 Oct. 2015), Daily Mail, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3294881/Jamie-Vardy-s-rags-riches-story-non-league-England-international-inspire-thousands-lower-league-players.html (accessed 18 Feb. 2016).
- Lee Thomas-Mason, “Timeline: Jamie Vardy’s miraculous rise from non-league football to Premier League record books,” (26 Nov. 2015), Metro, http://metro.co.uk/2015/11/26/timeline-jamie-vardys-miraculous-rise-from-non-league-football-to-premier-league-record-books-5526976/ (accessed 18 Feb. 2016).
- BBC, “Jamie Vardy breaks record for goals in consecutive games,” (28 Nov. 2015), BBC, http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/34953098 (accessed 18 Feb. 2016).