Lamar Reynolds: Newport County's own Jamie Vardy?

Lamar Reynolds
Lamar Reynolds in action for Newport County during Tuesday's pre-season friendly at Chippenham

In recent times he is the most famous rags to riches story in football.

Five years after playing in the seventh tier, Jamie Vardy was making his England debut, breaking records and on the way to winning the Premier League title.

Now, thanks to over £100,000 of the Leicester City striker's own money, Newport County hope they have found a star who can follow his remarkable rise to the top.

In June, Lamar Reynolds was one of 42 non-league players to arrive at the Jamie Vardy V9 Academy, training and living at Manchester City's training complex for a week under the watchful eye of scouts from more than 65 professional clubs.

The 21-year-old is one of three graduates to have so far signed terms with Football League clubs since, and he is already making an impression at the Exiles in their pre-season campaign.

"I like to get goals," says Reynolds, who last year bagged 27 in 36 games for Brentwood Town in the Isthmian League Division One North, tier eight of the English football pyramid.

"I just want to quickly make an impact and show that there's talent in the non-league which is where I came from, that's the main target for me."

'From nowhere'

Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy's goalscoring exploits at non-league Fleetwood Town earned him a move to Leicester City

At a time when transfer fees and wages at the top level are reaching enormous figures, the whole idea of the V9 Academy is to show clubs that there are hidden gems lower down the food chain if you look hard enough.

After being released by Sheffield Wednesday aged 16, Vardy found himself working in a carbon-fibre splint factory before going on to play for Stocksbridge Park Steels, FC Halifax and Fleetwood, where Leicester then snapped him up for £1m.

At the age of 25, Vardy was only earning £850 a week; within three years he would set a new Premier League record by scoring in 11 consecutive matches.

The title of his 2016 autobiography 'From Nowhere' is a fitting title for a remarkable few years.

"He's been a big idol for a lot of players in non-league," adds Reynolds.

"We saw him twice in the week I think. We did a few Q & As with him and heard him speak about his time when he was in the non-league.

"I learnt a lot from him so that was all positive. Never give up was the main point he was trying to get across.

"He was letting us know that sometimes it's hard to keep focused and not lose your head, know what your target is and work hard and never give up.

"I've taken that advice on board and obviously I'm doing well so far.

"I think it's helped me a lot because I was with quite a lot of players that have been in the [Football] League before, in and out of it and are quality players."

10 Premier League players who played non-league football
Troy Deeney (Watford)Chelmsley Town 2004-2006
Michail Antonio (West Ham)Tooting & Mitcham United 2007-2008
Yannick Bolasie (Everton) Hillingdon Borough 2006-2007
Chris Smalling (Manchester United)Maidstone United 2006-2008
Ashley Williams (Everton)Hednesford Town 2001-2003
Charlie Austin (Southampton) Poole Town 2008-2009
Craig Dawson (West Brom)Radcliffe Borough 2007-2009
Andre Gray (Burnley)Hinckley United 2010-2012
Dwight Gayle (Newcastle United)Stansted 2009-11
Joe Hart (Manchester City - on loan at West Ham)Shrewsbury 2003

Never give up

It may be too early to draw too many comparisons between the Leicester striker and any of his academy graduates, but Vardy has shown that anything is possible.

By all accounts, Reynolds was one of the standout players from the V9 class of 2017 and has already made an impression in the amber and black of Newport, scoring in the friendly win at Swindon Supermarine.

"I am confident I can score as many goals as last season. That's the main target anyway," he says.

"Fingers crossed and, as long as I work hard, I'll definitely be able to get it.

"There were a few other offers but I looked here and saw that I could relate to a few things here so I thought this would be the best place for me to go.

"After they put that much faith in me [with a two-year deal] I'm not going to turn that down so it was a no-brainer for me really.

"Every second I'm on the pitch I want to work hard and repay the faith the manager has shown in me."

If he goes on to achieve half as much as his mentor Vardy has done, Newport will consider that two-year contract a sound investment.

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