“He had absolutely everything you’d want as a football player” - The inside story of Jamie Vardy’s time at FC Halifax Town

Actions from the game FC Halifax Town v Chasetown at the Shay, Halifax
Pictured is Jamie Vardy celebrates first goalActions from the game FC Halifax Town v Chasetown at the Shay, Halifax
Pictured is Jamie Vardy celebrates first goal
Actions from the game FC Halifax Town v Chasetown at the Shay, Halifax Pictured is Jamie Vardy celebrates first goal
“He is one who the supporters will like,” said FC Halifax Town boss Neil Aspin upon the signing of Jamie Vardy in June 2010.

Just over a year later, after 28 goals in 41 games, the club’s player of the year was gone, but certainly not forgotten.

The Shaymen won the Northern Premier League Premier Division title by 19 points that season, scoring 108 league goals.

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Few observers at The Shay that campaign could have predicted the career Vardy would go on to have, but there is no doubt his season-and-a-bit with Halifax helped set the striker on the road to super-stardom.

Actions from the game FC Halifax Town v Colwyn Bay at the Shay, Halifax
Pictured is Jamie VardyActions from the game FC Halifax Town v Colwyn Bay at the Shay, Halifax
Pictured is Jamie Vardy
Actions from the game FC Halifax Town v Colwyn Bay at the Shay, Halifax Pictured is Jamie Vardy

“The gaffer had mentioned to me in the summer, when I was sorting my new deal out, that they were trying to sign him,” says ex-Town midfielder Tom Baker.

“I’d heard a little bit about him but not a great deal.

“He was still a bit of an unknown to a lot of the lads, although he was making a few waves.”

The Halifax players and supporters might not have known too much about Vardy, but Aspin had been tracking the Stocksbridge forward since he was Harrogate manager.

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Actions from the game FC Halifax Town v Nantwich at the Shay Stadium.
Pictured is Jamie Vardy celebrates 2nd goal with Lee GregoryActions from the game FC Halifax Town v Nantwich at the Shay Stadium.
Pictured is Jamie Vardy celebrates 2nd goal with Lee Gregory
Actions from the game FC Halifax Town v Nantwich at the Shay Stadium. Pictured is Jamie Vardy celebrates 2nd goal with Lee Gregory

“The season we signed him, we’d known about him for about a year leading up to that,” he says.
“Me and Trevor Storton (Aspin’s assistant manager) had both heard about him and both wanted to watch him.

“We’d gone a couple of times to watch him but he hadn’t been playing and then we found out it was because he had a tag and he couldn’t play in the evening games.

“The first chance I got to see him was in a pre-season game against Sheffield United under 21s at Stocksbridge.

“And I decided straight after watching him on that one occasion that I wanted to sign him.

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Halifax Town v Matlock. Jamie VardyHalifax Town v Matlock. Jamie Vardy
Halifax Town v Matlock. Jamie Vardy

“A lot of times, you want to watch a player a few times but I was willing to take the gamble in the fact that it was just that he had so much pace that I felt it wasn’t going to be a risk.

“If you’ve got pace at the level we were at, I thought he was going to be a real handful.
“The one thing you can’t coach or develop is raw pace and that’s what he had.

“He won a penalty in that game where nobody else would have got it but his pace drew the tackle, and the player he was playing against probably didn’t expect him to get there.

“So after that game I wanted to sign him but he had to wait to go through that season before we signed him.

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Actions from the game FC Halifax Town v Nantwich at the Shay Stadium.
Pictured is Jamie Vardy's first goalActions from the game FC Halifax Town v Nantwich at the Shay Stadium.
Pictured is Jamie Vardy's first goal
Actions from the game FC Halifax Town v Nantwich at the Shay Stadium. Pictured is Jamie Vardy's first goal

“David (Bosomworth, Halifax chairman) went to watch him, because he knew he was going to have to pay a fee and he wanted to see him for himself.

“I remember him ringing me up after the game, it was up in Durham, and basically said ‘what the hell have you sent me here to watch him for, he’s only scored a couple, made a couple, hit the bar and absolutely ran them ragged’, so he knew then that we had to sign him.

“So it was just a case then on deciding the fee Stocksbridge wanted. But we were all convinced he was going to make an impact.”

Aspin says a lot of clubs in non-league had watched Vardy, but none were prepared to sign him.

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“Neil used to tell a story of when he went to watch him play and he got sent-off after 10 minutes,” says former Town captain Mark Bower, “and half the crowd got up and left because they were all scouts there to watch him.”

“They’d probably heard about his reputation,” says Aspin, “he’d been sent off three times that season as well, so he carried a bit of baggage, and some people weren’t prepared to take a chance.

Actions from the game FC Halifax Town v Chasetown at the Shay, Halifax
Pictured is Jamie Vardy with keeper Jonathan HedgeActions from the game FC Halifax Town v Chasetown at the Shay, Halifax
Pictured is Jamie Vardy with keeper Jonathan Hedge
Actions from the game FC Halifax Town v Chasetown at the Shay, Halifax Pictured is Jamie Vardy with keeper Jonathan Hedge

“But I wasn’t bothered by all that. In some ways I thought it was a plus that he had a bit of aggression, which for a skinny lad that was slight in build, I thought was a good thing.

“He certainly wasn’t going to let the physical side of it bother him.”

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So Town took the plunge, paying a fee of £16,000 according to Aspin, to bring him to The Shay.

“He was very shy at that time, didn’t say a lot,” Aspin recalls.

“He came with Gary Marrow, who was his manager at the time, and Gary was trying to look after him, he didn’t have an agent.

“He was very, very quiet. He was probably one of the easiest players we’ve ever signed in that respect.
“He realised it was a step up from Stocksbridge but he didn’t make any demands.

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“Halifax had the foresight to see what a gem they had. We got him on a four-year contract.

“I think he signed initially for a couple of years and we quickly extended his contract because we knew we were going to have a player that other clubs were going to want, and that’s what happened.”

First impressions of Vardy were good among the Town squad when they began pre-season training at Spring Hall athletics track, near The Shay.

“Neil had brought in a lot of new players,” says Bower.

“We didn’t see much of a football to start with!

“There were a few interesting characters and he was obviously one of them.

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“He’d had a bit going on in the past in his life so the club helped him that way.

“I remember Trevor Storton speaking really highly of him as soon as we’d got him, he was really excited by him and how right he was.”

”He was really lively, he had a lot to say, just a really normal lad,” says Baker.

“Dress sense wasn’t the greatest. Nike used to do a trainer where they had weird toe on them like a frog-toe and a strap that you pulled over, and I’m sure he had a pair of those on.

“He wasn’t shy that first day.

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“As a player, it took no time at all to see how good he was.

“I knew within a couple of training sessions by the things he did and how quick he was that he was something special.”

”He was this little skinny kid,” says ex-Town defender Danny Lowe, “quiet in one sense but himself in another. It didn’t take long to see his personality.

“He had nothing on him, probably hadn’t done any pre-season fitness work but he was just as fit as a fiddle.

“When we did some of the sprints.....Jesus!”

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Former Town defender Liam Hogan was also taken aback at Vardy’s sheer pace.

“I remember training on the athletics track in pre-season, I’d heard we’d paid a fee for him, and I was new to the club as well, and it was a really hot, sunny day,” he recalls.

“We’d done a lot of hard work and obviously he was really good at the running.

“We played a game at the end of the running and he picked the ball up but I backed myself to have a bit of pace and I thought ‘I’m alright here’, he knocked it past me and just fired it straight into the goal left-footed.

“I just thought ‘wow, that happened fast’.”

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”Asp rang me up when he signed and said he was from Sheffield so I texted him to see if he was going to jump in our car school with me and Danny Holland, and later Lee Gregory,” says former Town goalkeeper Jonathan Hedge.

“He was just a lad’s lad who loved his football. He liked the banter, liked a good craic and loved playing football.

“He had an aura about him that made him quite an important part of the changing room. From the first time I met him I got on really well with him, like a house on fire.

“He fitted into the dressing room seamlessly.”

”The squad was built up of little groups of players all from different areas,” says Baker.

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“You might have four or five lads from Manchester, four or five from Sheffield, four or five from Pontefract, Castleford way.

“A lot of lads travelled in from car schools, and Vards came in from Sheffield way with Lee Gregory, Danny Holland and Jonathan Hedge.

“He was really close with them. Danny was very similar - off his head!

“He settled into the squad really quickly. But that generally happened with any new player because we had such a good squad and a good group of lads.

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“If it was a good player coming in who was a decent lad, they were integrated quite easily.

“So it took no time, and he was that sort of lad anyway. He wasn’t shy, he was outgoing so he was always going to settle in quickly.”

”He settled in straight away,” says Aspin. “He was popular with the lads, he had a bit of an edge to him, he was a real Jack The Lad.

“We just had a really, really good team spirit, and a lot of characters at the time, people like Danny Holland.
“We were training at Spring Hall in pre-season, doing some running on the track, and he didn’t even have a proper pair of trainers to run in.
“They were more like a pair of shoes he was using.

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“Everybody was taking the piss until they saw how quick he was.”

”I don’t think Asp realised how much of a livewire he was until after he signed him,” says Hedge.

“I think it shocked Asp a little bit how lively he was in the dressing room and round the place.

“I think it took him 10, 14 days to get his feet under the table and just go from there.

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“I don’t think Asp fully knew how to handle him just because of the way he was, he was just crazy, and I think he let him get away with stuff he probably wouldn’t let others get away with because he knew he’d produce it on a Saturday.
“And you needed him in your team.

“Trevor really, really liked him as a player. Trevor was the one who said ‘this kid’s going to go on to bigger and better things’.

“I think everyone else was trying to keep him grounded a little bit, but Trev, god bless him, he took to him, and I think Vards took to Trev as well.

“Trev was very softly spoken, tactically he was very good. It was Asp that was the motivator, the screamer and the shouter. Trev had that calming influence.

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“I think he helped settle Vards in when he first came, because there was price tag on him. I think it was the first time Halifax had paid for a player since the old club went under.

“But Vards never showed he was under any pressure or they’d paid a significant amount of money for him.

“Trev just kept saying to him ‘believe in yourself, you’ll go far, just keep believing, keep working hard’.

“Asp took him under his wing as well and said ‘you can go far if you get your head right and you know what you’re doing on the pitch and you want to learn’.

“Me and Danny had chats to him in the car as well.”

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It wasn’t all plain sailing at the start of the campaign for Town, with just nine points from the opening six games.

But The Shaymen won their next ten games in a row as their march to the title turned into a sprint.

The key to many of Town’s successes was to get the ball to Vardy out wide and let his pace do the rest.
“We didn’t build the team around him, we had other good players,” says Aspin.

“I remember playing away at Nantwich, we won 6-0, and our forward line was Lee Gregory, James Dean and Jamie Vardy. Well, you don’t need to set the team around Vardy when you had other good players as well.

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“He got more confident. He’d stepped up to a bigger club in a higher league but he took to it and he was getting better and better as the season went on.

“I remember another game at Frickley, early in the season, and I think he had about four or five chances and he didn’t score, but his pace got him into those positions.

“By the end of the season, his finishing had certainly improved, that got better as the season went on.”

”Jamie could replicate his speed from the first minute to the last,” says Hogan.

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“There might be games where he was quiet but because of the explosiveness.....he was aggressive in closing defenders down, he didn’t give them time or space.

“He wasn’t the biggest or the most physical but he put himself right about.

“Defenders in the lower leagues pride themselves on being physically well built and go and head the ball and clear it, do the basics, but Jamie didn’t ever look out of place going into those 50-50s.

“As an all-rounder, he had pace, drive, just a nightmare. But a great outlet for us because if you ever got in trouble with the ball, you knew there was an option in the space in-behind the defenders that Jamie, even giving 10 or 12 yards on defenders, would still get there.

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“He would get us up the pitch. I think he had lots of chances that season and missed quite a few, but because he was ruthless in his movement and got chances, even if he missed four or five he’d still come out with hat-tricks.”

”I remember him playing a lot off the left-hand side and coming in on his right foot, and utilising his pace,” says Bower.

“I remember one game at North Ferriby, I think they had a few injuries and played a young right-back, and I’ve rarely seen a player absolutely dismantle another one in the way Vardy did to that poor young kid that day, he absolutely ran him ragged.

“You almost felt sorry for the lad, even though you were playing against him.

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“Because we were so strong and dominant, and a lot of our players, not just Vardy, were better than the level we were playing at, a lot of games we didn’t need him.
“But the few where we were struggling and needed something, he was the one that stepped up more often than not and produced moments and goals for us to get us back in games or get us in-front in tight ones.
“You saw his real qualities in those games.”

”We had a lot of penalties that year,” recalls Baker. “I scored 13 out of 14 penalties, which is unbelievable really.

“I remember I missed one penalty away, I think it might have been Hinckley.

“I reckon over 10 of those penalties, Vards must’ve won.

“I think that was my highest goalscoring season at Halifax, and that was (down to) Vards because once you got him in-behind and he got anywhere near the box, he was so clever and they couldn’t cope with his pace.

“He won so many penalties that year.”

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”He could have won a game for you in 45 minutes when he turned it on,” says Lowe.

“The quality he had was there to see, he had everything, he was quick, he could play on the left, which he did a lot for us, he could play through the middle.

“For a small, slightly built player he got stuck in as well. If you normally nailed a winger, they’d shy off, but he’d bank it and then nail them twice as hard.

“His ability was always there, it was just down to him knuckling down.

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“He always had the confidence but I think the penny dropped and he thought ‘I’ve got a really good chance here’.

“Coming to Halifax gave him that platform. It was the right time for him and the right time for the club.

“At that time, we were doing really well, Neil had a good reputation, we had good players there already.”

”Without him, I think you’d knock quite a lot of points off,” says Hogan.

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“You’re looking at maybe 20-odd points just on his own where he’s pulled us back or won a game.

“There were definitely games where we thought ‘we’re done’ but then he’s popped up and rescued the day.”

“He had a good football brain, he knew when he picked the ball up what he was going to do,” says Aspin.

“Pace was his main asset but he was very, very tenacious. if somebody kicked him, he would kick them back. If somebody tried to upset him, it didn’t bother him.

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“He had a real desire to win, his work rate was tremendous and he’s never changed.

“He plays now like he used to play when he was in non-league.

“He’s learned to play the role of a centre-forward now because he used to play in both wide positions and up-front.

“He knows how to draw a foul now, whereas at Halifax he’d have stayed on his feet more.”

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”He was absolutely unbelievable,” says Hedge. “We won a lot of games comfortably that year, mainly down to him.

“He was scoring two or three goals a game or a week.

“You just knew if you were struggling, he’d come up with something, he’d come up with a goal out of nowhere and he’d either win you the game or he’d get you a draw.

“Just his raw pace, his ability to go either way. there were times through the season where you had to feel sorry for some of the defenders because you just knew he was absolutely going to rip them apart because of his pace and his ability.”

”Your key players always pop up at the right times,” says Lowe, “so when games were tight, that one chance would fall to him, or he’d create something himself out of nothing.

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“That wasn’t just a one-off, it was regular. If you needed someone to unlock a defence, you’d put your mortgage on it being Vards.

“He did it so regularly for us.
“We had such a good team, there weren’t any weak links, but when it was a tight game, or you needed someone to pop up with a goal, Vards was your man.”

Vardy fitted seamlessly into the squad off the pitch too.

“He was very, very outgoing,” says Baker. “Never kept still, never stopped talking.

“Just 100 mile an hour in everything that he did. The way he played - all action, in your face, quick - was how he was off the pitch.”

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”He was just relentless,” says Hedge. “He’d turn up and have one or two cans of Red Bull, and he didn’t need them.

“I think he still does it now before games. He’d drink it and he’d be even more hyper than he was than normal.

“He was a nice kid who loved his football.

“For our Christmas do, we knew we were going out after the game, so the boot was loaded up with lager and beer.

“He said ‘we might as well have one now lads, we’re only playing so and so, I’ll score a few, we’ll be alright’.

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“And you’re thinking ‘Vards, we can’t really have a drink mate’.

“He didn’t but he could have got away with it because he had the ability. He could back it up.

“He was brilliant when we’d go out, he was never off the dancefloor, bouncing about, taking the piss out of people, just what you do on a night out.
“He’d always be the first one out and probably the last one in.
“He’d rock up back at the hotel at three or four in the morning and want to carry on then.

“I remember sharing a room with him and Danny Holland in Leeds. I got in at half two, three o’clock and he bounced in at half four and he just wanted to carry on.

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“And it was getting light outside. I was like ‘Vards, what’s going on?’

“That’s the type of character he was, he just loved being around the lads, and he loved being on a football pitch.”

Everything about Vardy seemed to be at full speed.

“We used to meet at Tankersley Manor (in Barnsley) and all jump in a car and fly up to Halifax.

“Or we’d meet at TGI Friday’s just outside Meadowhall and leave our cars there.

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“There’d be really loud music in the car, banter flying about before and after training and games.

“We got on really well, I knew Danny from before because I was at Harrogate with him.

“We had a few nights out together here and there, we got on really well.

“There was a song called We No Speak Americano by Yolanda Be Cool and when he was driving he’d have that on full whack on repeat.

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“It’d be blaring out and we’d be flying down the motorway with the windows down all dancing about in the car.

“That song, it just caught on. Whenever I hear it, it reminds me of those car journeys with him.

“It was quite a lively tune and it caught on and we had it in the dressing room.

“We used to train at Tong High School, and there was an Indian restaurant about half-a-mile down the road, so me, Greggers, Danny and Vards would go straight there after training and get a few starters and eat them in the car on the way home.

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“It wasn’t a footballers’ diet really but we worked hard in training and we’d earned it.”

Vardy’s influence seemed to grow as the season went on. He scored four of Town’s first 41 goals that season, but then netted 21 of their next 62 goals, laying on several others.

“For the first few months he wasn’t the star player,” says Aspin, “but then as the season continued he then became the star player.”

“There were numerous times that year where we were either drawing a game, or winning comfortably, and I just thought ‘give the ball to him’,” says Hedge.

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“If we were ever in doubt, we’d give him the ball or Asp would move him up top, because he played out wide quite often.

“He knew that, purely down to his raw pace, that he’d get in-behind and get chances, and that’s what he did.

“We just knew he’d always come out on top. We had other match-winners but no-one with the pace and ability he had.

“It was frightening. You knew he was going to go on to the next level.

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“After Christmas there were agents queueing outside the dressing room at The Shay wanting to speak to him, four or five agents at games and they’d all be down by the tunnel afterwards.”

”There were lots of scouts ringing me up, asking about him,” says Aspin.

“My message was always the same, that he could play higher.

“Obviously I wouldn’t have said at the time that he would play for England but I said he was definitely capable of playing in the Championship, possibly going on from that, but I said ‘you won’t get him cheaply’, that was always my comment ‘we won’t stand in his way but the club will not give him away and sell him cheaply, we’ll sell him for what he’s worth’.

“I knew he was going to go, it was just a matter of when.

“As the season continued he was getting better and better, and he was getting more interest from clubs.
“I knew he was going to go. It was a real privilege to see how he developed that season, I really enjoyed it.”

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”Teams would defend really deep against us,” says Bower, “so there wasn’t a load of space to put the ball in-behind for him to use his pace and get on the end of.

“What he was really good at was in the air, under pressure, you could hang a ball in the air on top of a right-back and he’d win it and get you up the pitch that way.

“When he was dominating a player, and you’ve got the ball, you had to get him on the ball and get the ball into his feet.

“He was a stand-out player for us, we were lucky we had some really good other options as well.

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“He had everything when you think about it - you could give it to his feet, he could handle it, you could put it in-behind and he’d chase stuff down.

“He could win the ball in the air, and he worked really hard for the team.”

”From the minute I met him, he’s worked really hard,” says Hogan.

“He didn’t take himself too seriously, he loved a joke, he loved a laugh.

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“But when it came to game day, the amount of times he got crucial goals or solo, individual goals out of nothing, it’s no wonder teams were keeping tabs on him.

“Sometimes players can go into their shell when they hear scouts are coming down but he seemed to thrive on it and get better and better.”

”He played in-front of me and he was a dream for me,” says Lowe. “If you got the ball you’d just give it to him!

“He worked hard though. Some people come in with that talent and toss it off and think they can swan through games, but he had a completely different mentality to that, he worked as hard as anyone, got stuck in, cared as much as anyone.

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“He used to banter and joke about the hype he had but it never really affected him in a negative way, it probably spurred him on a little bit more to be honest.”

Vardy nearly completed what would have been a remarkable hat-trick of hat-tricks in March, scoring three against Chasetown and Kendal - becoming the first Halifax player to score back-to-back hat-tricks since Clem Smith in 1945 - before netting twice against Nantwich.

It was also around this time that assistant manager Storton passed away after an illness.

Storton died the day after Vardy bagged a hat-trick - including the goal of the season to win it deep into stoppage time - against Chasetown at the Shay.

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“We were winning 2-1 in the last minute and there was a ball over the top and I’ve come running out, and their lad’s lobbed me and it’s gone in,” recalls Hedge.

“I’m thinking ‘we’ve just chucked three points away’ and I could see Asp on the touchline kicking water bottles about and I thought ‘oh my god, he’s going to annihilate me’.

“But then straight from the kick-off, Vards got the ball, I think he exchanged a pass with someone, had a little dribble and then he’s fired it into the top corner in-front of the South Stand.

“It got me out of trouble and he could get us out of trouble because he had that ability.”Asp still gave me a bit of a rocket afterwards, but Vards just said ‘leave him alone gaffer, I’ve won us the game’, not arrogantly but just banter.

“We had a bit of a laugh about it.

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“He was just so easy going, nothing was ever too much for him, he never felt under pressure, he never showed that he was under pressure and he just let his football do the talking.
“But he backed it up with his banter off-the-pitch. Half the stuff he did off-the-pitch you probably wouldn’t get away with if you couldn’t do what he could on it.

“If you couldn’t do what he did, then there’d be managers who wouldn’t let you get away with what he did.

“But the lads took to him, the lads loved him. We had a really, really close group, and it showed on the pitch.”

”That (the Chasetown game) just summed him up that, for me in that season, he was just miles better than anyone he played against,” says Bower.

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“Because of that he wasn’t really pushed as much, but when he was asked questions and he did need to step up for his team, he did.”

”If he’d got nine hat-tricks in a row no-one would’ve been surprised would they!” says Lowe.

“He was consistently doing stuff where you thought ‘chuffing hell, how’s he pulled that one off?’

“It became the norm, what he was doing. It was the norm for him to do something every week.”

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”That was a really, really enjoyable season, probably the most enjoyable season of the lot,” says Aspin.

“The only sour note was when Trevor died. He was such a lovely bloke, really popular with the players.

“That was the only downside to what was a fantastic season.

“They were really good lads, it was a really good team spirit, a really good squad.

“I’ve been in football since I was 16 and I probably enjoyed that season as much as any season I had as a player as well.”

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Vardy scored three goals in four games the following campaign, but there was only so long The Shaymen could hold onto their most-prized asset, who joined Fleetwood in August 2011.

“He worked in a glass factory,” says Aspin. “He used to come in for some games (during the 2010-11 season) and his back was killing him after being on his feet.

“I remember him lying on the dressing room floor before games, stretching his back out because it was stiff from working.
“But the season after in the Conference North, he packed his job in and that’s when him and his agent had made the decision that he was going to give his career the best chance.

“That was the catalyst to him going full-time and giving it a real go.

“And you’d have to say it paid off.”

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”Not once did he say ‘I’m going to get this move’ or anything,” says Hedge.

“Obviously you hear rumours and things but he was just focused on what he wanted to do and let everything else take care of itself.”

”Obviously Jamie wanted to move clubs and that’s difficult when you don’t want to lose the player but you know he has to move for his own good so you wouldn’t want to stand in his way,” says Aspin.

“The club obviously put a value on him and they had to get a good deal, so it was a real balancing act.

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“The player was desperate to go, the club was desperate to cash in on him so you’ve got a difficult situation. You want the player to keep playing and keep performing but he’s getting frustrated because he wants to leave.

“I’m really pleased that it ended with everybody benefiting, and with Jamie having a career which nobody could’ve imagined, that it would work out so good for him.

”So many clubs could have signed him. There’s a few clubs I recommended him to who didn’t take him, who must be kicking themselves that they never took him because he would’ve made such a difference.”

”I definitely think everyone thought he was going to go full-time and play in the Football League but he really kicked on and he’s made the most of his attributes to have an unbelievable career,” says Bower.

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“He’s the pin-up boy now for any young, aspiring non-league footballer to say ‘look, this lad did it, he didn’t do it when he was 18, 19, he was in his mid-twenties before he got into the league’.

“He’s a real example for all sorts of lads at non-league level.”

”It sounds easy to say now because you look at what he’s gone on to do but I remember saying at the time, someone asked me about him at the start of the season, and I said he had absolutely everything you’d want as a football player,” says Baker.

“He had every attribute, he could do everything.

“He was as good with his left foot as he was with his right, you genuinely didn’t know which foot was his strongest.

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“He could strike a ball, he could with it with both feet, he was lightning quick, unbelievable in the air, which you probably don’t see now.

“We used to kick to Vards a lot because he was so good in the air, aggressive. The mad thing is probably his biggest weakness, in my opinion, at that point was his finishing.

“That year he might have got mid-20s in goals, something like that, which, don’t get me wrong, is good, but at that level for a player of his ability, it’s not staggering.

“But he created so many chances and he had so many chances because he was so quick and because he was so good.

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“Since he’s been a professional he’s had the time to work on that side of his game and he’s absolutely deadly now in-front of goal.

“He ticked every single box to be a professional footballer.

“No-one would probably have predicted what he’s done but he had everything to go to the top.

“He was very, very gifted and he was born with what he had.

“Obviously it’s taken a hell of a lot of hard work from him to get to where he is now, but he was just very, very talented.”

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”I went to see him live the year Leicester won the Premier League, that was nice to see him play live at that level,” says Aspin.

“I felt really, really pleased for the lad, and pleased for Halifax as well because it was part of his development.

“It’s such a success story and it gives hope to anybody else who has played non-league football.

“I’m very proud of what he’s achieved. He’s just got better and better, and let’s hope he can keep playing for a few more years.

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“I wasn’t so pleased when he scored against Leeds this season though.

“I did recommend him to Leeds. They could have signed him, and I would have liked him to have gone to Leeds.”

”Never in a million years would you have said ten years ago he’d have played for England x amount of times, scored x amount of goals, win the Premier League, score over 100 goals in the Premier League,” says Hedge.

“You would never have said it. You’d have said he’d play in the Football League, we knew he’d do that, but to go to the level he has is frightening.

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“When he joined Halifax, I think he then quit his job and it was a now-or-never situation.

“Good luck to him because he’s done unbelievably well.

“He’s got a better all-round game, he’s tactically more aware because he’s worked under a lot of very good managers and played with some very good players.

“When he was with Halifax he was very raw with the ability he had but now I look at him in post-match interviews and what he’s like at full-time, and that’s Vards I know and that everybody else knows.

“He’s laughing and joking, you can see when he speaks to Brendan Rogers he’s got a bit of a glint in his eye and he’s having banter, straight after the game.

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“That’s how he was at Halifax. there are aspects of his game that have changed for the better but he’s kept the fundamentals that have got him to that position as well.

“He’s just a really good kid who’s gone on to really good things.”

”What stands out for me was the first game of the season against Buxton,” says Aspin, “and I remember him being out wide, he took the ball, nutmegged the defender, cut in and bent the ball just past the post.

“The skill he showed to do that was absolutely tremendous, it really was, and I just thought ‘this lad’s got something special’.

“And he went on to prove it.”

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