Football: Jamie Vardy vows to stay with EPL champions Leicester, launches own academy

Jamie Vardy celebrating after scoring the third goal for Leicester City.
Jamie Vardy celebrating after scoring the third goal for Leicester City. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Jamie Vardy has given Leicester a huge boost by insisting he will stay with the English Premier League champions next season.

He fired Leicester's miraculous charge to the title with 24 goals and the England striker's blistering form prompted speculation he could be lured away from the King Power Stadium by one of the league's superpowers.

But with Leicester looking forward to competing in the Champions League and defending the title, the 29-year-old is adamant he will ignore any big-money offers.

"We've just won the league and will be playing in the Champions League next year. I am happy here," he said.

The star striker launched his own academy on Monday and pledged to give non-league footballers a chance to follow in his rags-to-riches footsteps.

Vardy, 29, was playing in England's seventh tier and working part-time at a factory six years ago, but is now an England international.

He was released by Sheffield Wednesday as a teenager and hopes that his new venture, christened the V9 Academy, will give a helping hand to players who do not have access to professional coaching structures.

"I was told I was too small, that I was not ready for the physicality of scholarship," he told a press conference at Leicester's King Power Stadium.

"I don't think anyone can be told if they're good enough at 15 or 16, when you still have so many years to grow and develop. That was my reason. Probably hundreds were told the same and had to drop down as well.

"Hopefully we can find them, get them to the academy and get them through. I have done it. That is there for people to see it can be done.

"With the players we get on and if they put the hard work in - and it will be hard, it will not be easy - we will give them Premier League-standard training and coaching. We can give them a chance to make the step up."

Applications for the academy, which will run free, week-long courses at Manchester City's training centre during the close season, are being accepted from this month. The first intake of 42 players, aged between 17 and 33, will join the academy next year.

Vardy is part-funding the project and plans for it to become self-sufficient.

"You never forget your non-league days," he said. "Turning up to away dressing rooms and getting changed in a Portakabin, one shower for the whole squad, which was freezing after 10 minutes so you had to make sure to be the first one in.

"Whether it's a low or high, the roots you come from keep you grounded."