Jamie Vardy: Leicester City striker's remarkable rise

By Owen PhillipsBBC Sport
Vardy considered quitting football

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy is on the verge of the Premier League and the 27-year-old seems to need a few seconds to take it in.

It's a remarkable prospect for a man who was contemplating giving up the game less than 12 months ago.

And it's all the more remarkable considering he was rejected as a 16-year-old after being told he was "too small", and was playing non-league football as recently as May 2012.

Last season - his first after his £1m move from Fleetwood Town - was tough.

He was struggling for confidence, not scoring, not reaching anywhere near the sort of form that prompted his move and getting plenty grief on social media.

The support of Foxes manager Nigel Pearson - the man who made Vardy the most expensive non-league player in history - and his assistant Craig Shakespeare convinced him to battle through the self-doubt, and the growing number of doubters.

"Yes I did [nearly give up] to be honest with you," Vardy told BBC Late Kick Off Midlands.

"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. I am glad to be showing the faith they showed in me on the pitch.

"I also know a lot of hard work has gone into it on my behalf as well as people believing in me. The gaffer has always said that he believes in me, even last year when I was at a bit of a low. And I am repaying him now.

"It was a big learning curve last year and I have done a lot of work in the off-season. I have come back this year fighting fit and it is paying dividends for me and the club."

It certainly is. This season, Vardy has scored 15 league goals in 33 games to help Leicester to the top of the Championship table.

Last season he managed four in 26 league appearances.

Jamie Vardy
Vardy is in his second season in the Football League

"It was tough," Vardy recalled. "I came into a dressing room with a lot of big names in and I wasn't used to it whatsoever. It did take a lot to get used to and I obviously have now."

Vardy's goals and impressive strike partnership with David Nugent has provided the cutting edge to a team brimming with confidence and quality. Nugent has scored 17 league goals in 35 games.

Barring a complete capitulation, City will be playing top-flight football next season.

Following Saturday's 3-1 victory over Blackpool,external-link the Foxes are 17 points clear of Derby County and QPR, who are third and fourth respectively.

They are also seven points clear of second-placed Burnley, with a game in hand.

The Clarets seem the only realistic challengers for the title, but with eight wins from their last 10 games, it's not as if Leicester are showing signs of letting the pressure get to them.

"It is brilliant," Vardy said. "Obviously the confidence is sky high. We are reaping the rewards of working hard on the training field and transferring it onto the pitch and that is what has got us into the position we are at the minute."

Vardy seems all the more appreciative given the fact his football success has come the hard way.

He was released by Sheffield Wednesday as a teenager and that nearly ended his career.

"As soon as that happened I never thought I would play football again," he said. "It was a real heartache as a kid.

"The reason I got released was I was too small. I wasn't physically built enough. It does hit you hard. I was very angry and upset and that is why I stopped playing for a year."

But he resumed his career at a lowly non-league level and by 2010 he was scoring regularly for Halifax. Within a year Vardy was signed by Fleetwood, whom he helped win promotion to the Football League.

"I have had to go the long way back into it," Vardy said. "But I am happy I have done that because I have learnt a lot of things on the way and it has got me to where I am today."

Following his rejection by the Owls, Vardy was also charged with assault after getting involved in a fight in a pub. He had to wear an electronic tag and was often forced to race back from games to beat a curfew.

"I did get into a bit of trouble back then," he said.

"I am obviously not proud of what happened but it happened so I think things happen for a reason and I have turned my life around now and I am happy the way I am."

The next part of the journey seems to lead towards the Premier League. And although Vardy does not want to dream too much about facing Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and the rest, he cannot help reflect a little on the progress both he and the club have made.

"We know if we carry on playing as we are, then we will be in the Premier League next season," Vardy added.

"I keep pinching myself all the time because I never thought it would happen but it's on the cards now if we keep doing what we are doing on the pitch.

"Being in the Premier League would be a dream come true."

You can see the Jamie Vardy feature from BBC Late Kick Off Midlands on BBC iPlayer.

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