Premier League sensation Jamie Vardy is inspiring Fleetwood Town in their youth revolution.
Vardy, now 28, fired Fleetwood to promotion from the Conference, bagging 31 goals in 36 appearances before moving on to Leicester City in summer 2012 in a deal eventually worth well in excess of £1m – a non-league record.
His recent form has lifted the Foxes out of the drop zone – Nigel Pearson’s men set to make a dramatic escape and secure top-flight survival –and has seen him nominated for the Premier League player of the month award.
It’s also understood to have turned the head of England boss Roy Hodgson, with Vardy reported to be on the verge of his first ever international call.
Fleetwood would love to repeat the success they achieved with Vardy – boss Graham Alexander hoping the club’s new focus on youth development could produce another superstar within the next five years.
He said: “We want to be a club that will encourage good young players to join us and make a career for themselves.”
“There’s only really Jamie Vardy who has done that in the history of the club.
“He did a fantastic job for Fleetwood in a very short time.
“He wasn’t a player the club produced but it was a stepping stone for him to go on to the Premier League.
“If we can produce a player like that ourselves over the next five years that would be a fantastic achievement. That’s where success can be gauged, not on the pitch but off it too.
“The chairman is excited about that, about doing something a little bit different that makes Fleetwood unique.”
Town’s switch away from big spending marks a huge change in direction, chairman Andy Pilley having effectively bankrolled six promotions in 10years at Highbury.
But the club’s £4.5m investment in a new training ground at Thornton – due to be ready in time for pre-season training – marks a new era, with Pilley and Alexander determined to ensure the club can “stand on its own two feet”.
Town are hoping to gain a reputation for developing young talent, following the example set by clubs like Crewe Alexandra.
Alexander admits there’s some way to go before that dream becomes reality.
“When we look at clubs like Crewe, they are a couple of decades in front of us,” he said.
“They have been doing this for 25, 30 years and have got category A status – an academy from the age of eight or nine.
“We’re miles behind because of the structure of the club, but the chairman would love this club to bring young players through and to be a great place for them to learn.
“A club which gives them a chance of first-team football and sells on the occasional one who will look back at Fleetwood as the first step on a great ladder.”