When Jamie Vardy was 22, he failed a one-week trial at fourth-tier Crewe Alexandra and was booted back to non-league football. His career was undoubtedly on an upwards trajectory, but mainly because — for an aspiring full-time pro — he couldn’t start much lower.For years, Vardy was forced to hold down two jobs.Watch Kayo-Mini Football Replays On-Demand with KAYO. A-League, Socceroos, Matildas plus European and English leagues. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >One was earning £30-a-week (A$55) playing in England’s eighth-tier for Stocksbridge Park Steels and, later, Halifax. The other was as a factory worker in Sheffield where he helped make prosthetic limbs having also been rejected by his hometown club, Sheffield Wednesday, as a teenager because he was too small.Today, he is just one goal away from scoring his 100th in the Premier League.Vardy can next week join legends such as Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba and Robbie Fowler in passing the milestone.Vardy joined Leicester in 2012 for the sum of £1 million.Source: AFPFor Leicester City, the striker has been worth every pound of the £1 million it paid Fleetwood Town in 2012 to bring him to the Championship.Since then, he has hit the back of the net 119 times in 265 games across all competitions.His haul helped take the Foxes to the Premier League in 2014, before they astonishingly won the title two years later in one of the most stunning underdog victories of all time.Back in 2009, even the most extreme, logic-defying optimist wouldn’t buy into that rags-to-riches story.The goals may have been flowing for Vardy then, but unsurprisingly, they don’t carry much weight in non-league football.At Stocksbridge, he banged in 66 in 107 games — some played with a tag on his ankle and a 6.30pm curfew in place after being convicted for assault. He said the conviction came after he defended a friend who was being mocked for wearing a hearing aid outside a nightclub.Another 29 goals in 41 games came after a switch to Halifax.Interest from bigger clubs followed in 2011, to the point where Crewe once again flirted with acquiring Vardy’s signature.But the jump of four tiers of English football was considered too large, the risk too great and, ultimately, the fee too expensive for a now 24-year-old late bloomer.Crewe passed on the £150,000 fee, as did Peterborough Town and Huddersfield.Fleetwood Town swooped for Vardy when Crewe rejected him.Source: Getty Images‘I’D NEVER HEARD OF HIM’Then-Conference side Fleetwood Town swooped on the record figure, bringing Vardy a step closer to League football.Even at that lowly level, Vardy still arrived in Lancashire as an unknown.“I’d never heard of him,” Gareth Seddon told The Guardian in 2015.“At first some of the lads were like, ‘Why have we signed this lad? From a few leagues below?’“Then, in his first game, he was unbelievable. And we were just, ‘That’s the reason he signed.’”Seddon played professional football for 18 years and said he had never seen anyone as quick as Vardy, who rapidly developed under the club’s full-time training schedule.“He just came on unbelievably,” Seddon told the publication. “Every time he ran through on goal we just knew that he was not going to miss. It was unreal. He just never missed.”Vardy’s unrivalled pace and ruthless finishing carried into games as he netted 31 times in 36 appearances.Fleetwood would have loved to have held onto its diamond in the rough, but football is also business, and it had the chance to make a historic deal that would satisfy all parties.Championship side Leicester tabled £1 million for the striker in a deal that had the potential to rise to £1.7 million with add-ons.Fleetwood agreed, thus sealing a record deal for a non-league player.No one could have predicted what was to come.Source: Getty ImagesFROM LEICESTER FLOP TO HEROIn his early stages at Leicester, Vardy appeared to be a flop.He struggled to find his feet in the Midlands where he lacked confidence and only found the back of the net five times in his first season.Even Vardy was starting to question whether he had what it takes to go any further.“Yes I did (nearly give up) to be honest with you,” Vardy told the BBC the following year.“But I had a few chats with the gaffer and they constantly told me I was good enough and they believed in me and stuck by me.”Manager Nigel Pearson and assistant Craig Shakespeare were vindicated a year later when Leicester was promoted to the Premier League as champions. Vardy found his form again, scoring 16 goals as he was named the club’s players’ player of the season.His start to Premier League life was as goal-lite as his start in the Championship — he scored five in his debut season. But, by this point, there was far more to his game.Vardy delivered his first man of the match performance in September when he scored a goal and picked up four assists in a comeback 5-3 win against Manchester United. Later in the year, he was also nominated for a player of the month award.Even so, no one could have predicted what would unfold the following season.With Italian Claudio Ranieri now at the helm, Leicester developed a devastating brand of counterattacking football that played into the hands of Vardy’s blistering pace.Roos magic in ’06 victory1:07A formula built on disciplined defending, breakneck counters and consistent selections saw Leicester achieve what was long-thought to be unachievable.With a squad valued at around £54.4 million and at 5,000:1 odds, Leicester lost just three matches as it ran away with the Premiership, beating second-placed Arsenal by 10 points and the £420 million Manchester City by 15.The man of the hour was Vardy, who the Leicester game plan heavily hinged upon.He scored 24 goals for season — one behind Golden Boot winner Harry Kane — and was named Player of the Season.While Crewe and Fleetwood were once Vardy’s interested parties, it was now Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal that was in for the striker, offering the £22 million required to trigger his release clause.But unconvinced by Arsenal’s style of possession over counterattacking football, he agreed new terms with Leicester, and signed an improved four-year deal worth around £120,000-a-week.While Leicester hasn’t come close to repeating its 2015-16 heroics, Vardy now has 26 England caps to his name and is still among the league’s best strikers.The 33-year-old leads the 2019-20 goal charts with 19 in just 26 appearances, bringing his career tally in the league to 99.Leicester resumes its Premier League campaign against Watford on Saturday, June 20 (9.30pm EST).



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