As Leicester City prepares to take on Manchester United this afternoon at the King Power Stadium, 30,000 pair of eyes will be watching Leicester striker Jamie Vardy in the hope that the former non-league forward can make Premiership history by eclipsing the 10 goals in 10 games record he now shares with Manchester United legend Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Just ten years ago the then 18-year-old was not known for his goal scoring, but for a different attribute while playing for the Stocksbridge Park Steels second team, a club born out of a British Steel plant in Sheffield.
Speaking about how Vardy was back then while talking about Jamie playing in a Cup Final, former Stocksbridge chairman Allen Bethel said: “Most 18-year-olds would have been cowed by that, especially one as slight as him, but he just got his head down and ran them ragged. We won comfortably. You could tell right then that he had something special about him.”
Since then it has been a struggle for the now 28-year-old, who at 16 was rejected by his local big team Sheffield Wednesday for being not big enough, to the moment last May when he proudly put on an England jersey.
Vardy’s tough journey to the Premiership has been one of hard work; going against the grain of modern thought that the only way to ever make it into the Premiership is move up through the ranks of an academy.
Following the Owl’s rejection Vardy got a job at a carbon-fibre splint factory, while playing seven years for Stocksbidge on a salary of £30 per-week, until in 2007 he ended up with a criminal conviction for assault after defending a friend in a fight outside a pub.
“He did not start the fight but he ended it,” is how it is described by Bethel.
It also led to him having to play with a tag around his ankle for six months, all the time rushing home to adhere to the 6pm curfew that was a part of his sentence.
It was however during this time that football scouts from other clubs first started to notice him which led to him signing for Halifax Town, before moving to Fleetwood Town in 2011 for £250,000 before Leicester City picked him up for £1 million in the summer of 2012.
Now everyone has heard of Jamie Vardy after his rise to the top, yet despite the fame he has found Vardy remains the same player he has always been.
“Nothing changes in his style,” said Bethel. “There was a moment in the Newcastle game recently where he is all arms and legs and shoulders and shoves a big defender [Chancel Mbemba] off the ball. It could have been playing on a muddy pitch at Bracken Moor Lane [Stockbridge’s home ground]. He has never changed.”
The now Leicester striker uses his non-league foundations well and is not afraid of any defender claims his former Fleetwood Town teammate Andy Mangan.
“One thing I know is that if we wouldn’t have had Jamie Vardy that year there is not a chance we would have won that league,” said Mangan. “I scored 24 and he scored 34 and set up most of mine but the biggest thing you can say about him, the biggest inspiration, is that he fears nothing.
“He could play against John Terry or whoever – he doesn’t care. He just goes out there and plays his football.”
Leicester start Saturday top of the English Premiership going up against second place Manchester United, with Vardy knowing that a goal this afternoon will give him the Premiership scoring record of 11 goals in 11 games and set him up with the opportunity to match the 1931/1932 top-flight scoring record of Sheffield United striker Jimmy Dunne, and given the fact Vardy is a Sheffield Wednesday fan, it would be icing on the cake knowing that he has taken a record away from a Blade.