Pilley’s faith paid off with Fleetwood’s Vardy swoop

Andy Pilley and Jamie Vardy
Andy Pilley and Jamie Vardy

Back in 2011 Andy Pilley took a £150,000 gamble on a non-league player called Jamie Vardy.

An £850,000 profit – and possibly more if that sell-on clause is ever activated – and it will be some of the best money he has spent.

Back in 2011, Burton Albion and Huddersfield Town were sniffing around the then FC Halifax Town striker but were not willing to part ways with that much cash.

In hindsight, they will bet they wish they had Pilley’s nous as the Town chairman plucked the rough diamond and polished him, with the help of then boss Micky Mellon, into a £1m man.

Pilley spent that money to ensure Fleetwood gained promotion into the Football League.

Though they had to withstand numerous £1m bids during the January of that season, Vardy stayed to finish the job and reward Town’s investment.

That flurry of bids in the 2011-12 season came after Blackpool boss Ian Holloway slapped the price tag on the forward after he netted in Town’s first FA Cup third round clash with Blackpool at Highbury.

The game ended 5-1 with Vardy netting the only goal for the Cod Army.

Pilley told Vardy he was not for sale that January but allowed the forward to go in the summer to Leicester City.

It is a path that has seen the striker go on to lift the Premier League, rack up England caps and be linked with a move to Arsenal at one stage.

And Vardy, 31, will always be grateful for Pilley for taking that gamble and giving him his first shot at full-time football.

Vardy said: “I can’t thank him enough for what he did.

Giving me the opportunity to come into full-time football for the first time and let me show what I could do on the pitch.

“Being there to help get Fleetwood into the football league and they have just carried on and kept improving.

(The progress) has been great, it is what they always wanted, they wanted to get into the Football League first and foremost then they wanted to carry on and get as high as possible.

“They are in League One now, I think they have cemented their place in that league now and they are not showing signs that it is going to go backwards so they are constantly wanting to improve.

“It will be a great experience for me to go back and see a few old faces but I also know that we need to go there and do a job to get through to the next round.”

Though there will be no reunion for the duo with Vardy a doubt due to a groin injury and Pilley currently stuck on a cruise in the Caribbean.