Today, Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy turns 35. This summer, it will mark ten years since the Foxes spent £1m on a non-league player, a decision that, among others, would change the fortunes of the entire football club.
During his early days at the club, he was far from a model professional, but with age has come wisdom and a dedication to stay at the very top. His rapid rise to Leicester from Stocksbridge Park Steels - via Halifax Town and Fleetwood - is well-documented, but his start to life in the East Midlands was tough.
According the the now Leicester Chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, Vardy used to drink heavily, often turned up to training intoxicated and even considered quitting football completely at the end of his first season - but was persuaded to take things more seriously by Nigel Pearson, Craig Shakspeare and ‘Top’.
He matured with the arrival of his first child, and then further when he met his wife Rebekah and things stabilised off the pitch. As he got to grips with his new surroundings, magic started to happen on the pitch. He fired Leicester to promotion, and then his goals against Manchester United announced his arrival in the Premier League.
It was a club he would develop a certain knack of scoring against as the following season, after the Foxes great escape, he broke Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in ten consecutive matches, against the Red Devils. Those goals contributed towards the greatest title win of all time and for that alone, Vardy will be remembered as a Premier League icon.
But given he won the league at 30, what he has achieved since then has been equally as impressive. He’s a player who relied massively on his pace to score goals, especially during that season as Leicester played phenomenal counter-attacking football, and although that pace has diminished slightly, his goals have not.
The Foxes have played in the Champions League and should have finished in the top four over the past two seasons, just missing out on both occasions. Despite his current injury issue, Vardy has played at least 34 matches out of 38 in every single season since Leicester returned to the top flight which is testament to just how well he looks after his body, and what a warrior he is.
Even as he has got to his mid-thirties, he is almost always available for selection and his performances, even when the team are underperforming - are consistently good. He’s now on a frankly ridiculous 127 Premier League goals halfway through his eighth season in the top flight, and given he was 27 when he first scored at this level - he is above some legends in the goalscoring charts.
Tied with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and with the likes of Teddy Sheringham and Robin van Persie in his sights, only 13 players have scored more Premier League goals than Vardy. If only his goalscoring talents had emerged sooner, he could have been challenging the top five.
But Vardy wouldn’t be the player he is without those stints in the lower leagues. This season in the league, when all the talk was about Cristiano Ronaldo’s Manchester United homecoming, or Romelu Lukaku £100m return to Chelsea - both superstars have been outscored by Jamie Vardy.
On the pitch his goals have given Leicester a Premier League title, an FA Cup, Champions League football and as a result of that success, they now have one of the finest training grounds in the entire country and plans to expand their stadium. He’s now 35, but Vardy’s footballing fairytale shows no signs of coming to an end.