Football's Cinderella Man - A rags to riches story

Jamie Vardy Blog Image  

Every single amateur team will have come across a player who once (a) played at a high level or (b) had trials with a team in a top division.  They might still show flashes of that promise, or they may stomp around taking out years of frustration on their opponent’s shins.  However there are also some superb examples of players who walked the other direction on this path.

Jamie Vardy is flying high with Leicester in the heady heights of the Premier League.  His rise to stardom is pretty incredible.  So much so that Hollywood has come knocking and a movie of his life is in the offing.

From non-league football to setting records in the Premier League, from making his England debut to scoring 30 yard volleys in front of the England manager, Vardy’s season has been real Roy of the Rovers stuff.  Released by Sheffield Wednesday as a teenager for being too small (they must be kicking themselves), Vardy’s story gives hope to players across the country that their chance may still come.

Alan Pardew, Crystal Palace Manager said:  “I think it's important someone like me highlights Vardy because it is important for the game. “When you're playing non-league you've still got a chance of that dream.  There is always an avenue to give players that dream of what Vardy is doing right now. “There can be certain pampering being done in the academies that softens players.  There is no chance of that in non-league.”

David Bosomworth, Chairman of Vardy’s former club Fleetwood Town said:  “We always knew he was special.  He had hunger, desire and work-rate. “I hope his story is a message to players rejected by Football League clubs who think about packing it in.  Don't!  Go into non-league and show what you can do.

 But who else has cut the path from non-league obscurity to making the headlines of back pages across the country?

Ian Wright is one of football’s best known late bloomers.  After failing to gain a pro contract in his teens Wright turned to playing for amateur and non-league teams.  A Crystal Palace talent scout saw Wright playing for Dulwich Hamlet which led to signing professional terms at the age of 22.  He then shot to fame scoring twice in the 1990 FA Cup Final, before signing for Arsenal in 1991 for £2.5m.  Wright became one of the Gunners greatest ever strikers, scoring 185 goals and helping the club win numerous trophies in a 7 year spell at the club.  He was also capped by England 33 times.

Kevin Phillips was a youth player at Southampton before being released. He signed for non-league Baldock Town, where he moved into the striking position he became famous for.   In 1994 he signed for Watford for £10k and eventually amassed over 500 games in the professional leagues, including 263 times in the Premier League.  Phillips also made 8 appearances in an England jersey.

Dado Pršo the Croatian striker was playing in the French amateur leagues at 25, working as a mechanic.  Fate called when Jean Tigana (Monaco Coach at the time) spotted him by chance. Capped 32 times by his country and representing Croatia at the 2006 World Cup, Pršo also played in a Champions League Final.  Not bad for a player that was once released as a youth due to a heart defect being detected resulting in a failed medical.

So if you think you aren't going to make it as a footballer, don't despair, use the examples like Jamie Vardy as a great inspiration and reminder that if you are determined and keep plugging away, the dream of being a pro footballer could still be a reality for you.

[caption id="attachment_328" align="alignleft" width="150"]Ian Wright Blog Ian Wright[/caption] [caption id="attachment_329" align="alignleft" width="150"]Kevin Phillips Blog Kevin Phillips[/caption] [caption id="attachment_327" align="alignleft" width="150"]Dado Prso Dado Prso[/caption]