When Vardy wore electronic tag during games
United are favourites but Leicester's star striker could have a big say in result
FA COMMUNITY SHIELD
LEICESTER CITY v
(Tomorrow, 10.30pm, Singtel TV Ch 109 - Eleven)
It was on a freezing cold Saturday afternoon in 2010 - Jan 23 to be precise - that I first witnessed a young Jamie Vardy in non-league action back in England.
The setting was Stocksbridge near Sheffield, one of many unassuming northern towns dying a slow death now that the British government has all but given up on its once-thriving steel industry.
The future England international was turning out for Stocksbridge Steels; his remuneration a mere £30 ($53) a week.
Vardy was in the final season of a three-year spell with the Steels - a period that will surely warrant several scenes in the impending (if rumours are to be believed) Hollywood movie based on his fairy tale.
During his first season at Stocksbridge, the young scallywag was forced to wear an electronic tag to monitor his movements after being convicted of assault.
This meant that he was under a strict curfew, and had to be at home between 7pm and 7am.
During some away matches, he would have to be substituted early and dive into a waiting getaway car in order to be at his front door before probation officers marched him to the nearest police station.
On that solitary occasion in 2010, I witnessed Vardy wearing the gaudy yellow and blue jersey of Stocksbridge. He was virtually anonymous.
Shackled by a well-organised defence, he received next to no service, and cut a hugely frustrated figure.
There was absolutely no inclination that this was a man destined for the top.
Fast forward 6½ years, and it's hard to believe that Vardy is now an established international.
And, by resisting the overtures of Arsenal back in June, he's also shown admirable loyalty to Leicester City - the club that have moulded him into a superstar.
Yes, people will say that Leicester gave him 100,000 reasons to stay loyal to the Premier League champions, but I'd argue that the vast majority of modern-day players would have shunned Claudio Ranieri's (probable) one-season wonders in favour of the more glamorous north London.
The team that kept Vardy at bay on that cold, wintery afternoon in January 2010 was none other than FC United - a club formed five years earlier by Manchester United fans disillusioned by the Glazers' ownership of the Red Devils.
Tomorrow's season curtain-raiser, the FA Community Shield at Wembley, pits Manchester United against Vardy's Leicester.
While many football fans have hailed Sir Alex Ferguson's farewell Premier League title triumph in 2013 as his greatest achievement, such was the dearth of quality at Old Trafford at the time, let's not forget that two key decisions made by the knight of the realm during his final period at the club have had a lasting, negative impact.
His unequivocal backing of David Moyes as his successor led the club backwards at a time when Jose Mourinho was apparently ready, willing and able to take the Old Trafford reins.
The second was his decision to sideline the promising Paul Pogba in favour of a geriatric Paul Scholes, despite having allegedly promised the young tyro regular first-team football. That particular decision looks set to cost Mourinho in the region of £100 million ($177.7m), if and when the French maestro finally signs on the dotted line.
How many more trophies would United have claimed had Pogba and Mourinho been strutting their stuff at the Theatre of Dreams over the past three years?
Against a Leicester team shorn of N'Golo Kante, and with Riyad Mahrez apparently unsettled by Arsenal's interest, Mourinho can capture his first piece of silverware as United boss, 12 months after his Chelsea side came up short against Arsenal.
Richard Lenton is the lead presenter at Eleven Sports Network. Join Richard and his studio guests for Eleven's live coverage of the Premier League, Emirates FA Cup, Football League Cup and more - starting with tomorrow's Community Shield clash between Manchester United and Leicester City.
“This is not a friendly. We will give the maximum and Manchester United will too. Both teams want to win it.”
— Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieiri on tomorrow’s FA Community Shield meeting with Manchester United