Rejects have been kicking the backsides of clubs who released them since time immemorial – but none with greater force than Jamie Vardy. Behinds don’t come sorer than those belonging to the collective decision-makers of Sheffield Wednesday’s academy and management back in 2002 when a certain slip of a kid was booted out of Hillsborough as a 16-year-old.
No amount of ointment can ease that pain, but a slightly soothing tale reaches this column of how this scoring sensation of 2015 was once strongly recommended to... Sheffield United.
“I saw this striker absolutely butcher some big strong centre halves and I immediately picked up the phone to Bramall Lane,” former Blades defender Tony Kenworthy tells me.
The match was relatively recent, in the 2011-12 season, but the fact it was non-league highlights the meteoric rise of a league latecomer who has made Premier League history by scoring in 10 consecutive games, equalling Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record.
Kenworthy picks up the story: “Vardy was playing for Fleetwood against Gateshead. He wasn’t big, but was he quick?! And he bullied those big opposition centre backs. I was straight on to United to urge them to sign him. Fleetwood wanted £1m. What would he fetch now? Maybe £30m couldn’t buy him.”
In fairness, having just been relegated to the third tier, the Blades were probably in no position to afford Vardy.
The real moral of the story is that he was also overlooked by so many of those who could... until Leicester forked out for the kid who went from Wednesday to Stocksbridge Park Steels and refused to finish in the scrapyard.
Having also made an astonishing England breakthrough at 28, maybe Vardy’s even bigger legacy will be persuading clubs higher up the scale to trust in pure talent, whatever the level. Kenworthy adds: “The way the game is, you need results yesterday but there are diamonds to be dug out of the ground – and then, as with all diamonds, you’ve got to chip away at them.”
It’d be foolish in the circumstances not to listen to TK’s latest tip for the top, an 18-year-old flame haired midfielder yet to appear for Middlesbrough. His name is Alex Pattison. Remember where you saw it first.
Worth a check at least by both Sheffield clubs, though there are few secrets in the scouting network.
While mistakes will always be made, ultimately none bigger than by the Owls over Vardy, let’s finish on the positive impact of Lucas Joao at S6; yes, a relatively costly signing at around £2m but a striker firmly tipped to be worth multiples of that figure. Can Wednesday hang on to him? Promotion is the only sure way.
Now a full international with Portugal and boasting six goals already in his first English campaign, Joao lacks for nothing on the evidence of his latest impact, two goals from the bench in last Saturday’s 3-1 win over Huddersfield. Strong, quick, a threat in the air and on the ground, a good finisher and with amazing high-speed footwork.
Not exactly Vardy yet, and a different type anyway, but there are surely no limits.