Jamie Vardy is a well-known figure in the game of soccer, having played internationally for England 26 times and forging somewhat of a goalscoring dynasty at his club side; Leicester City. The 31-year-old is by no means finished as a player, but the striker has taken steps to ensure his footballing legacy by establishing the V9 Academy for non-league footballers. Despite his current stardom, Vardy is a former part-time footballer who was lucky enough to be spotted by Fleetwood Town, a club that he subsequently joined and helped as they rose into the Professional football pyramid. Vardy started his V9 Academy in May 2016 hoping that non-league footballers could experience his journey and travel to the same dizzy heights that he has.
The V9 program promises 42 successful applicants the opportunity to attend a 5-day residential camp, at Manchester City’s Etihad Campus where they will have the chance to perform in front of scouts from football clubs across the United Kingdom and beyond. The 42 players are equally split into three teams of fourteen. Each team and player then receive coaching from elite individuals including former Queens Park Rangers manager Chris Ramsey and former Hibernian and St Mirren boss, Alan Stubbs.
The Academy received 1,500 applicants in its first year and was also the star of a fly on the wall documentary by Sky Sports. The V9 school is a made for television idea that seems perfect in principle. But is it a good idea for footballers? What of Vardy’s academy protégés? Where are they now and are any of them expected to rise to his level of play?
In V9’s two year tenure of existence, it has recognized and improved a good handful of players, including Mickel Miller a 22-year-old striker, who earned a move from England’s 7th tier to Scottish Premiership side Hamilton Academical with the help of Jamie Vardy’s V9 center. Since his employment by the ‘Accies’, Miller has shown how vital the V9 academy is for unearthing unrecognized talent, by scoring 6 goals in 10 matches.
Twenty-one-year-old defender Alex Penny is another success story, having gone through the program and advancing to EFL League One team, Peterborough United in the summer of 2017 before later joining Miller at Hamilton Academical at the beginning of 2018/19. Meanwhile, Danny Newton’s performances at V9 earned him a professional contract at League Two Stevenage in 2017.
Neither Miller nor Penny nor Newton have scaled the heights of the Premier League like their hero Vardy, but he has helped them earn Professional deals and make a living playing the game at more than decent standards. Moreover, Miller, Penny and Newton are all still young and have many years to reach the level of their mentor. But in the meantime, Vardy and V9 continue delving deep into the depths of semi-professional football, with no doubt the greatest achievement of this year coming courtesy of Forward Cody Cooke and Defender Josh Heaton who both earned contracts at Scotland’s St Mirren.
As each year goes by, the Vardy academy is growing and is beginning to take hold of football’s consciousness as a plausible option for young semi-professionals. Time will only tell how influential V9 can become but in the short term, it is certainly a pleasing acquisition for football and its players.