Jamie Vardy's Premier League Legacy: From £30 a week to a Working-Class Hero

Jamie Vardy: A working-class hero

From a £30 a week salary with Stocksbridge Park Steels, to English football's pinnacle - Jamie Vardy has become a cultural icon for the working class of football. For all the Sunday league natives and 9-5 workers with a pay-as-you-play deal, there is a Vardy element within you.

When brushing over worn-out boots from the Sports Direct sale or getting your brown envelope after playing in front of a crowd of 100, each footballer down in the lower tiers has dreamt of the Vardy-esque rise to the top.

You know the drill: work for the weekend. Settle up for the 9-5 job so you can knock around on the weekend and mull over the working class lifestyle at around 18:00 on Saturday evening, regardless of the result from the 3 o'clock fixture. The former England international has shown us all from the working-class background that those days on the bumpy grass and broken changing rooms can pay off.

Through the ranks and up to the pinnacle, Vardy has now become a cultural icon within the realms of the working class game and love him or hate him, the striker has flown the flag high for all of us that dream big.

A Golden Boot Gets Closer

In recent years, Jamie Vardy has been considered as one of the most dangerous strikers in the Premier League, scoring 99 goals in the English top tier after just six seasons.

The Leicester City number nine has been a crucial aspect in his sides rise from the Championship to competing at the highest levels of the Premier League, playing an integral role in the Foxes’ famous Premier League title win in 2016.

Despite his reputation as one of the most clinical finishers around, however, Vardy is rarely spoken of in the discussion of the Premier League’s greatest strikers of all-time list, possibly highlighting him as one of the most underrated players of the Premier League era.

His incredible journey from the lower leagues to the upper echelons of English football is one of the greatest football stories ever told, particularly when looking at the accomplishments and records the Englishman has achieved in his short but fruitful professional career.

Although, one honour the prolific forward is yet to achieve is the Golden Boot, coming closest to the prestigious award in 2016 when he scored one less goal than Harry Kane’s 25-goal total.

Now, Vardy leads the race for the Golden Boot this season and when we all thought the goals would stop coming, they keep on mounting.

Fleetwood Chairman discusses Jamie Vardy

Andy Pilley talks about Jamie Vardy's life at Fleetwood Town and how the then soon-to-be England manager Roy Hodgson turned down the chance to sign the Fleetwood star for West Brom.

Life before the premier league

Rarely is it the case that we see a player from non-league football, or even the lower ends of the Football League reach the levels that Vardy has in his career. Before becoming one of the most proven and recognised English strikers of recent times, Vardy had played for a number of lower-league and even non-league sides.

Starting his career in the Unibond First Division, the Sheffield-born forward spent seven years with Stocksbridge, making his first-team debut in 2006. He amassed an impressive 54 goals for the South Yorkshire club and was part of their promotion to the Unibond Premier Division in 2009, scoring two league hat-tricks in the same season.

Vardy’s goalscoring form continued in the following season, adding another 14 goals to his tally and earning himself a transfer to Halifax for a fee of around £17,000. After just one season with his new club, they were crowned the Northern Premier League champions and promoted into the National League, which lead to his £156,000 transfer to Fleetwood Town.

In his first season with Fleetwood in the National League, the forward lived up to his price tag and the most prolific season of his career, being involved in 48 goals in 36 games for his side. His 31 goals and 17 assists helped Fleetwood to become Blue Square Bet Premier League 2011/12 champions, and gain promotion for the third time in four seasons.

Vardy’s fine form and increasing reputation in the lower leagues as a clinical striker attracted interest from all over the country, ending up in the former Fleetwood man becoming the most expensive non-league player in England when he signed for Leicester in 2012, for £1 million.

The Foxes were a Championship side at the time, and the difference in class and level had an effect on Vardy’s goal rates as he only managed to score four in his first season at Leicester, with 16 in the following season.

The rise to superstardom

In his first Premier League season, Vardy’s statistics did show him to be the prolific striker his previous National League statistics would show. Rather, the once goal hungry centre forward would turn provider for his side, with Leonardo Ulloa being used as the figurehead for Nigel Pearson’s Leicester attack and the Englishmen being used as the ‘work-horse’.

Vardy would go on to assist 10 goals in his debut Premier League season, while netting just five for the Foxes. However, this changed when Italian mastermind, Claudio Ranieri, would replace Pearson in the following season – a season no expert or fan could have predicted.

For Leicester City, the 2015/16 Premier League campaign would be the biggest season of the club’s history to date, shocking everyone by winning the title in just their second season after promotion. This etched the striker's name in the league’s history books, as he went on to score 24 goals over the course of the season, breaking Ruud Van Nistelrooy's record of most consecutive games scored in, by bagging 13 goals in 11 consecutive games.

The coming seasons would see the English forward stay at Leicester despite interest from Arsenal, and teammates Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante moving away from the King Power Stadium. The loyalty shown towards the Foxes added towards the admiration of Vardy from fans and pundits alike, while Vardy continued his goalscoring prowess by finishing within the top five scorers every year except one since.

This season, the now retired England international has scored 19 goals in the league, and with Leicester having nine games to play still he still has time to add to his tally. His next goal will make it a century of Premier League goals in his career after just six seasons in the English top-flight, possibly making an argument for him to be considered as one of the best strikers in the modern Premier League era.

An all-time great of the Premier League

When discussing the list of the greatest strikers that have graced the pitches of the Premier League, usually the likes of Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer and Sergio Aguero are mentioned as the best, and rightfully so. However, Jamie Vardy is rarely mentioned in the names following the best strikers and is almost never included as one of the best.

Vardy will almost certainly feature in the league’s top five scorers for a third year running this season, bringing his 2019/20 season goal tally to 19, so far. The prolific Leicester striker is only five goals away from his own personal Premier League record with nine games remaining.

The Leicester man is also leading the goalscoring charts in the race for the Golden Boot this season, currently ahead of previous winners Kane, Aguero and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. This will be the first time he will accomplish being the Premier League top scorer, possibly making an argument to include him in the list of the best ever Premier League strikers.

It is often the case a striker in the Premier League will be labelled as one of the greatest due to the sheer amount of goals scored. However, many would argue that trophies are what make a striker great and Vardy has the most prestigious trophy of all - the Premier League. A trophy that has eluded the greats such as Luis Suarez and Kane who are all considered world class compared to Vardy.

By winning the golden boot, Vardy would have accomplished almost all there is for a striker to have accomplished – winning the league title, breaking goal scoring records and possibly now the Golden Boot.

Although he is yet to score the number of goals the best strikers in English football have scored, there is surely an argument for the Leicester man to be included as one of the best strikers of the modern Premier League era.

By Brad Beecham

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