Jamie Vardy dreamed of finding non-league talent to follow in his footsteps and his V9 academy is already seeing results. Sky Sports News HQ’s Rob Dorsett meets the Leicester striker to find out more.
One thousand applied, 42 were selected for the coaching programme and so far, three players from non-league have signed for English Football League clubs. Five more are in talks. That’s Jamie Vardy’s V9 Academy: Year One.
“When we first came up with the idea, I knew from my time in non-league there was a big pool of untapped talent going unnoticed”, Vardy says.
“The aim was to get 10 per cent of the players we worked with into the pro game, and we are now just one player away from hitting that target.”
Five players who came through the V9 Academy earlier in June are now going into pre-season training with teams in the EFL, with the prospect of new contracts.
The non-league clubs they are currently at want a transfer fee, so negotiations are ongoing. But those players impressed the scouts enough to earn them extended trials, so it’s likely that more of the 42 will make it into the EFL, and Vardy and his team will exceed their own expectations.
It’s a cause that’s dear to the England striker’s heart. Six years ago, at the age of 24, he was playing for Halifax in the eighth level of the football pyramid. He’s now a Premier League champion, who’s played 16 times for his country, and scored six international goals.
Vardy came through the game the hard way. Not for him, the gilded changing rooms and hordes of support staff at a Premier League academy. He was rejected by Sheffield Wednesday at the age of 15 for being too small. Instead, Vardy started life at Stocksbridge Steels, earning £30 a week.
“To think back to my time at Stocksbridge, if V9 had been around, I may not have spent nine years playing in non-league,” he says. “I’m now hopeful that some of the clubs, scouts and players that were skeptical about what we set out to do are won over, not only by what we delivered for the players during the week itself, but the success stories that have followed.”
It’s been a lengthy process – one that’s been filmed from behind the scenes, every step of the way, by a documentary crew who are currently editing a special V9 programme for Sky Sports, that will be aired next season.
After a rigorous selection process, the lucky 42 players selected had a week of intensive training at Manchester City’s Football Academy, working with professional coaches: Alan Stubbs, Chris Ramsay and Robbie Stockdale. They had access to a sports psychologist, and heard from Champions League winner Rene Mulensteen. At the end of the week, they then played in a series of matches at the Etihad Campus in front of dozens of scouts from the EFL and abroad. In one of those games, they beat the Welsh Premier League Champions, The New Saints, 3-2.
Danny Newton was the first V9 graduate to earn a pro contract. He was at Tamworth last season in the Conference North, working in a factory in Leicester to make ends meet. He did, though, score 34 goals for Tamworth. He’s now joined Stevenage.
Blair Turgott is a former England youth player, who was at West Ham before he had some trouble in his life, and lost his way in football. Now, after V9, he’s also signed for Stevenage.
Lamar Reynolds had offers from Norwich, Millwall and Sheffield United; before V9, he was at Brentwood Town in the Ryman North Division. He’s now signed a two-year contract with Newport County.
“To see Lemar Reynolds jump four levels to league two, Blair get another opportunity despite his recent setbacks and Danny at a similar age to myself get a crack at the pro game – it’s amazing,” says Vardy. “It’s definitely a career highlight for me, that I’ve been able to help these guys, maybe inspire them a bit.”
“Looking to the future we’re now hopeful of securing some sponsorship and investment so we can build on the academy’s success next summer and beyond,” Vardy says. “Maybe even take the V9 concept into different countries…”Soccer Accumulator Bonus
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