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NLP Column 29th November 2016

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We’re quick to criticise top level footballers in this country for being out of touch and forgetting their roots.

I suspect the truth is very different and most will appreciate their background and the people who shaped their careers.

Unless you’ve been living on Mars, Jamie Vardy’s story will be a very familiar one – and now he’s trying to find his successor.

The former Stocksbridge Park Steels, FC Halifax and Fleetwood Town striker launched his V9 Academy back in the summer before he went to the European Championships with England.

Since then thousands have applied for the chance to attend a five-day training camp at Manchester City’s Etihad Campus at the end of the season.

It’s open to all players from Step 1 down and the academy’s scouts have been out scouring the country for potential talent to take part in the competition.

There is also a six-part Sky Sports documentary that is following the whole process.

Some clubs – and you can understand their view – will possibly be sceptical, but last week the V9 Academy showed how serious they are by unveiling their first three signings on Leicester City’s pitch.

Eastleigh midfielder Luke Coulson is the talk of Non-League at the moment. The former Manchester City man joining up is a big coup. He would have been with England C in Estonia had it not been for the Spitfires’ FA Cup replay.

AFC Telford keeper James Montgomery was on international duty and he’s also signed up, along with Tamworth’s in-form striker Danny Newton.

All three met Vardy last week before my colleague Jon Couch sat down with the Premier League winner to talk about life before superstardom.

“Non-League is where I come from and I’ve still got mad fond memories from when I was there,” said Vardy, who won the Conference title in 2011-12.

“I wanted to give something back. I still talk to quite a few of my old team-mates from every club I’ve been at, which is nice because you don’t want to forget where you’ve come from.

“I always pinch myself no matter who I’m playing against. I’ve managed to work my way up the ladder and get to the top, which is an unbelievable achievement.”

Vardy isn’t a one off. There is more talent written about in our paper every week. If Vardy’s venture can help unearth more, that really would be giving something back.

Written by Matt Badcock

Published by Russell Eynon