Jamie Vardy - Still going strong for Leicester at the age of 35.

Jamie Vardy 08 sierpnia 2015

Leicester City icon Jamie Vardy has endured an injury-hit 2021/22 Premier League campaign thus far, but the 35-year-old is back in first team action after hamstring issues. Vardy climbed off the bench to help the Foxes to a 2-0 away victory over relegation-threatened Burnley, moving Brendan Rodgers’ men up to 12th place in the table. Vardy’s return was most welcome for Rodgers, who has seen his side lacking potency in the final third in his absence.

Rodgers described Vardy as a “real catalyst for the team” despite entering the twilight of his career. Rodgers noted his persistent “energy” and the way he “runs and presses” to help Leicester defend from the front. Vardy has been the fulcrum of the Leicester attack for more than a decade now. It was his Midas touch in front of goal that helped the Foxes to their miraculous Premier League title win in 2016 and he’s still going strong in 2022.

Vardy breaks Ian Wright’s Premier League goalscoring record

Turf Moor 2021

Jamie Vardy’s late goal at Turf Moor to defeat Burnley saw him hit 94 Premier League goals since turning 30 and his 128th top-flight goal in his career thus far. That 94th goal saw Vardy leapfrog Arsenal legend Ian Wright to become the most prolific striker over 30 years of age in the Premier League. Vardy equalled Ian Wright’s goal tally back in November, but hamstring problems have prevented him from moving into a league of his own. It was fitting that he would score in his first game back after a lay-off of more than two months.

Vardy’s goalscoring record since turning 30 usurps even the likes of Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham, who both maintained prolific goalscoring records in their latter years. Shearer notched 84 Premier League goals in his 30s, while Sheringham bagged 77 goals after turning 30, with the latter even playing on into his 40s.

Vardy’s late arrival on the Premier League stage maintains his hunger

Jamie Vardy is the archetypal ‘late bloomer’ in footballing terms. The Sheffield-born striker was still playing non-league football as recently as the 2011/12 season, when he bagged 31 goals in 36 appearances for Fleetwood Town, who were chasing a National League promotion at the time. Having failed to secure a long-term contract with the Sheffield Wednesday academy in the early 2000s, Vardy played his way through the football pyramid, with prolific spells for Stocksbridge Park Steels and FC Halifax Town.

By the time transfer interest arrived from Leicester in 2012, Vardy was dubbed the ‘non-league’s first million-pound player’. Sure enough, Fleetwood managed to negotiate a deal worth £1m, rising to £1.7m based on add-ons. A jump from the National League to the Championship seemed a huge chasm to bridge. Vardy took a season to acclimatise, but he hit the ground running in the 2013/14 campaign, helping the Foxes to the Championship title and securing the Players’ Player of the Season award.

His man-of-the-match display against Manchester United in his debut Premier League season announced him on the biggest stage. Ian Wright said recently that he believed Vardy would go all the way to play for England if he maintained that form – and sure enough he would get the call-up to the England senior squad later that season.

The fact that Vardy took eight years to go from Stocksbridge Park Steels to the England national team has left him with the hunger to continue into his late 30s. Having only tasted Premier League football at the age of 27, he’s not someone that has been exposed to the physical and mental rigours of the top-flight game from youth team level.

There remains plenty for Leicester and Vardy to play for in the latter third of the 2021/22 season. Although qualification for both the Champions League and Europa League now looks all but impossible, the Foxes still have a shot at the inaugural Europa Conference League. Leicester advanced to the last 16 of the competition with a 7-2 aggregate win over Danish side Randers to tee up a clash with French side Rennes.

Rodgers, who admitted that he relishes Leicester’s European nights, believes the competition represents a chance for City’s season to end in silverware – and guaranteed entry into next season’s Europa League.