Everyone loves to ponder what might have been, especially in football. The sliding doors moments that may have set things on a different path. Well back in the summer of 2012, when Cardiff were spending Vincent Tan’s vefty, rebrand-related transfer budget, they had a £1m bid accepted for non-league phenomenon Jamie Vardy.
He ended up at Leicester and all parties went on to do rather well in many respects, as both sides earned promotion tin the couple of years that followed and Vardy certainly made up for lost time. But what if he had joined Cardiff instead? What might of happened next for both? Vardy touches on this period in his autobiography: From Nowhere – My Story.
“Leicester, Cardiff and Peterborough had £1m offers accepted as the 2011-12 season drew to a close, which meant that I ended up visiting all three Championship clubs that summer before deciding where to go,” he explains.
Unimpressed by Peterborough, which Vardy described as a “non-starter,” he then headed to Cardiff. “I got my head down in the passenger seat while John (Vardy’s agent) did the driving and woke up in South Wales, where Cardiff made much more of an effort to get me to sign.”
“We visited their training ground at the Vale of Glamorgan, looked around Cardiff City Stadium and went out for dinner to a seafood restaurant on the marina with Malky Mackay, their manager, and Iain Moody, the head of recruitment.”
“Cardiff, however, had one major disadvantage for me, and that was the distance to Sheffield (where he his new daughter was based). It was not as if I could get a direct flight from Cardiff to Sheffield, and sitting in a car for four-and-a-half hours would have been a nightmare. When we left I told them I was undecided, but in my mind I couldn’t see how it could possibly work at Cardiff.”
As far as reasons go, no one can really question Vardy’s logic. I wouldn’t fancy that sort of commute either. Had he joined Cardiff, you wonder whether Cardiff would have still signed Nicky Maynard, a great signing on paper, but ultimately a flop in reality. One of the main reasons why Maynard struggled was due to a serious knee injury picked up early in the season, so had Cardiff signed both, chances are that Vardy would have stepped in at this point and may have cemented a place in the team.
Cardiff romped to the title that year, so Vardy was hardly missed, but there was far more of a burden on Heidur Helgusson than anyone would have expected and Vardy wouldn’t have lightened that load. Would they have then gone on to sign Fraizer Campbell in January too? Campbell gave Cardiff a lift at exactly the right time and was also one of the star performers in the Premier League campaign.
One of the abiding memories of Cardiff’s solitary top flight season was of Campbell running himself in to the ground as the lone striker. That is Vardy’s stock in trade and that was when they really could have done with the pair of them.
At the time, Vardy was enjoying his breakthrough season at Leicester, who won the title and replaced Cardiff, in part thanks to Vardy’s 14 goals. Leicester have remained in the Premier League ever since and had Cardiff landed him, maybe their stay might have contined a little longer.
Vardy will certainly not have given Cardiff a second thought. He has won a Premier League title, played in the Champions League and regularly represents his country. In 2016, Arsenal triggered a £22m release clause in his contract and he turned them down. Would he have shown Cardiff that sort of loyalty? Who knows. It’s another aspect to ponder.
Vardy recently graced the Cardiff City Stadium and led the line with distinction, keeping both Sol Bamba and Sean Morrison on their toes throughout as Leicester impressed in securing a 1-0 win. I think its safe to assume that he doesn’t wonder what might have happened had he joined his opponents from that day.
Very much the type of player that Cardiff fans take to, Vardy could have been the heir apparant to Craig Bellamy but Cardiff’s loss has been very much Leicester’s gain and he moved on to bigger and better things instead.