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Premier League: There ain't no Vardy like a Jamie Vardy

Premier League legend Jamie Vardy turned 35 on Tuesday, so what better time to celebrate the Leicester City number nine, who has enjoyed arguably the best rags to riches story in the modern era.

Vardy has certainly crammed a lot into his career since making it to the top flight at the age of 27, whether that be helping Leicester to the most unlikely of title successes in 2016, winning the FA Cup with the Foxes five years later, or representing England and two major international tournaments.

The prolific front man has certainly come a long way since combining playing non-league football with a job as a technician making medical splints, and we have taken a look at his rise, as well as tipping our caps to some of other players that continued to light up the Premier League during the twilight of their careers.

From Stocksbridge to stardom

Vardy's story is one every football fan can relate to, as he was released by boyhood club Sheffield Wednesday as a teenager, and was subsequently forced to cut his teeth in non-league football with Stocksbridge Park Steels.

The dream of being a professional footballer certainly appeared to be fading when he failed to earn a contract following a trial with Crewe Alexandra in 2009, but he soon found his groove after joining Halifax Town the following year.

His one full season with Halifax saw Vardy score 25 goals, as the club won the Northern Premier League Premier Division title, and following a strong start to the next campaign he was on the move again, this time to fifth tier Fleetwood Town.

The step up certainly did not faze the then 24-year-old, who proceeded to score 31 times in the Conference Premier, as Fleetwood were promoted to the Football League for the first time in their history.

Vardy's goals alerted the attention of several Football League clubs and on 17th May, 2012 Leicester completed arguably the greatest bit of business in their history, signing the rookie forward for a reported £1million.

Leicester love affair

Leicester were a Championship club when Vardy made the move to the King Power Stadium and he took some time to adapt to the higher level, with some supporters criticising his performances during his debut season, which yielded just four league goals.

There was even talk of Vardy leaving the club at the end of the 2012-13 campaign, but then Foxes boss Nigel Pearson convinced him to stay, and the following season Leicester won the Championship title with their number nine contributing 16 goals.

After a slow start to life in the Premier League, bar scoring in a memorable 5-3 victory over Manchester United, Vardy came to life over the second half of the season, spearheading a successful survival push for Leicester, while his performances also earned him his first international recognition with England.

Another season of struggle was expected for Leicester the following campaign, but under the guide of manager Claudio Ranieri, and with Vardy in the form of his life alongside the likes of Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante, the Foxes were able to defy their 5000/1 odds and win the Premier League title.

Vardy scored 24 league goals that season, including netting in a Premier League record 11-consecutive games, while he was also named Premier League Player of the Season and picked up the FWA Footballer of the Year award.

More success was to come for Vardy, as he won the Premier League Golden Boot for the 2019-20 season, netting 23 goals, while he was also part of the Leicester side that beat Chelsea in the 2021 FA Cup final and lifted the Community Shield just three months later.

So far this season, Vardy is the highest scoring Englishman in the division, netting nine goals in 15 top-flight appearances, while he is joint-14th alongside Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink on the all-time Premier League scoring list with a total of 127 goals.

93 of those strikes have come after Vardy has turned 30 and one more would see him surpass the record for most Premier League goals scored by a player in his thirties, an honour he currently shares with Arsenal legend Ian Wright.

England player at two major tournaments

Vardy's rise from non-league to Premier League also saw him earn international recognition, and he impressed in an England shirt, scoring seven goals in 26 appearances for the Three Lions between 2015-18.

Several of those international strikes came against powerhouses such as Germany and Italy, while he also netted at Euro 2016, scoring the equaliser in an eventual 2-1 group victory over Wales.

That was Vardy's first taste of major international football, and England flopped in France, losing to Iceland in the round of 16, but both he and the team enjoyed much more success at the World Cup in Russia two years later where they made it all the way to the semi-finals.

Vardy featured four times at that tournament, including in the semi-final loss to Croatia, but he only started once and opted to step aside from the international game after the finals, although he left the door open for a return, but only in the event of an injury crisis.

Vardy leading the way for the over 30s

Not many people would argue against Vardy being regarded as the greatest over-30 player in Premier League history, and although he is currently sidelined through injury, it feels like only a matter of time before he surpasses Wright's tally of 93 goals as a 30+ player.

There are certainly similarities between Vardy and Wright, with both players having cut their teeth in non-league football before coming into the top flight at a relatively late age.

The same cannot be said for Alan Shearer, who is next on the list, having scored 84 Premier League goals in his thirties, as the Newcastle United legend and Premier League record goalscorer spent the entirety of his career playing top-flight football.

It is not just forwards that have impressed during the latter stages of their careers, with the likes of Tony Adams, Frank Lampard and Fernandinho having all excelled well into their thirties, the latter still doing so at Manchester City.

Vardy could also have plenty of time to create further history, as he is still five years off breaking the record for the oldest outfield player ever to play in the Premier League, which was Teddy Sheringham at 40 years, 8 months, 28 days.

However, even Sheringham would appear a junior when compared to goalkeeper John Burridge, who made his final top-flight appearance for Manchester City against Queens Park Rangers in May 1995 at the age of 43 years, 5 months, 11 days - if Vardy keeps playing for that long then even Shearer's goalscoring record would be in trouble.

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