Rashford, Grealish & Vardy: Football’s greatest ‘how it started vs how it’s going’ stories

Vardy

The Twittersphere is a breeding ground for new trends that encourage involvement from users no matter your background or reputation. 

In recent weeks another viral sensation has emerged on the social media platform. 

The premise is relatively simple: you post a picture from the past that documents the beginning of some form of journey, relationship or story - and title it "how it started" - and follow it up with a separate picture that reveals how things have progressed - titled "how it's going". 

It's been a huge hit and social media has been littered with tales of personal progression and achievement. 

Football is a breeding ground for unlikely tales of unexpected success and failure, but we're only going to focus on the former here. 

Here at GiveMeSport, we've broken down 12 of the greatest "how it started vs how it's going" stories in a list of triumphs that are bound to warm the heart. 

Take a look at our list of 12 below...

N'Golo Kante

How it started: £8.1m transfer from Cannes to Leicester

Kante

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How it's going: 2x PFA Player of the Year winner, 2x Premier League title winner & World Cup winner

Kante

There is a theory that 70% of the earth is water, and the remaining 30% is covered by N'Golo Kante. It's a theory that's yet to be verified by empirical evidence, but anyone who has witnessed the Frenchman's ability to cover ground will appreciate the sentiment. 

The most startling thing about Kante is that he came out of nowhere. He was an unknown entity to most onlookers when he arrived at Leicester City in 2015, but by the end of the season he was a Premier League title winner and a richly deserved PFA Player of the Year winner.

Fast forward four years and Kante has since added another English title and PFA award to his locker, while he played an integral role in France's 2018 World Cup triumph. 

Jack Grealish 

How it started: Pictured passed out in Tenerife

Grealish

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How it's going: England international and Premier League star

Jack Grealish

There was a time when Jack Grealish looked destined to become another fallen prodigy, an overhyped next-big-thing who lacked the desire or professionalism to translate talent into ability.

In 2015, a picture surfaced of Grealish laying horizontally on the pavement in Tenerife, presumably passed out drunk with a packet of cigarettes in view.

A genuine victim of "the sesh", serious questions concerning the attitude of Aston Villa's boy wonder began to emerge. 

Grealish faded into the background for a short period thereafter until a freak kidney injury became the unlikeliest of watershed moments in his career.

The creative playmaker missed a good chunk of the 2017/18 season, but he returned having clearly worked hard in the gym to bolster his physique, which in turn seemed to take his dynamic style of dribbling to a new level. 

A return of six goals and six assists in 31 Championship appearances helped the Villans clinch a playoff place in a season when Grealish was also throttled by a Birmingham City fan during a feisty Midlands derby, and they eventually returned to the top-flight with a cagey 2-1 over Derby County in the final. 

Now an England international and one of the most coveted talents in the division, Grealish is surely destined for a top six club.

Danny Ings 

How it started: 498 days out injured with two different knee injuries

Danny Ings

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How it's going: Returns to England fold after Premier League resurgence 

Danny Ings

Danny Ings suffered two consecutive knee injuries - including an ACL problem - during is time at Liverpool and spent a total of 498 days out as a result. 

Footballers are seldom the same beasts after returning from such lengthy absences that often strip players of their prime physical capabilities. 

In Ings' case, however, he has returned with a determination to conquer the world, make up for lost time and fire past every single Premier League goalkeeper who stands in his way. 

A return of 22 league goals in 38 appearances in 19/20 was the best of the Southampton talisman's career, and his form at club level has rightfully propelled him back into the England fold.

And on his third appearance for his country he scored his first goal, perfectly executing a bicycle kick for the Three Lions' third on the night. 

Chris Wilder 

How it started: Takes job at Sheffield United in 2016

Chris Wilder

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How it's going: Highly respected Premier League manager

Chris Wilder

Sheffield United appointed Chris Wilder to replace Nigel Adkins in 2016 following an underwhelming season for the Blades in which they finished 11th in League One. 

Wilder left Northampton to take on a sizable challenge at a club with lofty expectations, and his first season provided an indication of what was to come. 

The Blades finished in top spot in the first season under his tutelage, storming clear of the rest of the pack as they managed to accumulate a whopping total of 100 points.

Given Wilder had never previously managed a side above League Two, the achievement was equally surprising and impressive. 

Sheffield United needed just two stabs at the Championship to climb into the top flight, and a 9th place finish in the club's first Premier League campaign boosted Wilder's stock. 

A straight talker with first-class tactical pragmatism, Wilder deserves every bit of his unlikely success story. 

Marcus Rashford

How it started: Writes open letter to parliament

Rashford letter Rash

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How it's going: Awarded an MBE

Rashford

The Twitter vultures will tell you that footballers aren't allowed to be political, but what Marcus Rashford has done for millions of individuals in the UK serves to undermine those who peddle the "just stick to football" agenda.

Positive news has been a scarce commodity in 2020, and another harrowing report prompted Rashford to make a public plea to the government.

Amid reports that the UK government's voucher scheme for families whose children qualified for free school meals would not extend into the summer holidays, the Manchester United star wrote an open letter to the government, asking them to change their decision and calling for an end to the cycle of hardship.

The 22-year-old's calls were answered and his actions enabled approximately 1.3m children access to food vouchers. Who knows how the affected families would have coped without Rashford's intervention.

And now Rashford has been made an MBE for his services to vulnerable children in the UK during Covid-19.

We almost forget to mention: Rashford is a pretty exceptional footballer, too.

Erling Haaland 

How it started: Signs for Molde for £90,000, aged 16

Haaland

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How it's going: World's 3st most valuable CF

Haaland

The rise of Erling Haaland has been one of the most stunning in recent footballing history. 

Aged 16, Haaland completed a £90,000 switch from Bryne FK to Molde. 

The insignificance of that figure, though, did not reflect the velocity at which the dominoes began to fall thereafter. 

His outrageous ability to find the net both domestically in Norway's Eliteserien and for the Norwegian youth outfits quickly caught the attention of Europe's big hitters, and he eventually made his way to Borussia Dortmund via a quick stopgap at the conveyor belt of talent that is RB Salzburg. 

Having scored 21 goals and provided 23 assists at Dortmund, the Norway international is now the 3rd most valuable centre-forward in world football at just 20 years of age, per Transfermarkt valuations.

Wayne Rooney

Ok, so this one is just for fun...

How it started: Petulant tweet 

Rooney

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Rooney

From swinging Twitter bruiser to broadsheet columnist, Rooney has enjoyed quite the rise in stature since 2011.

Emiliano Martinez

How it started: Bernd Leno's unfortunate injury

Bernd Leno

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How it's going: First-choice goalkeeper at Aston Villa

Martinez

From an outsider's perspective, the life of a backup goalkeeper is a peculiar, potentially futile existence. 

Playing a peripheral role in a position so niche demands a level of mental resilience that few are likely to possess. 

Emiliano Martinez is clearly as strong as they come. The Argentine stopper spent a decade at Arsenal but didn't get his first proper run in the starting XI until his tenth and final year. 

Following Bernd Leno's injury against Manchester City, Martinez became the club's number one and held that position until the season's end. 

An impressive, domineering presence between the sticks, the 28-year-old played a starring role as Arsenal went on to win the FA Cup at Wembley.

His reward: a £16m move to Aston Villa.

His penalty save on debut immediately leveraged his standing amongst the Villa faithful, and two clean sheets from his opening three games have given him a solid platform to build his career.

Martinez's sudden and unexpected rise provides an inspiring lesson to those goalkeepers warming benches and struggling to envisage a future in the starting XI. It's never too late. 

Jamie Vardy 

How it started: 31 goals in 36 games as Fleetwood Town win the Blue Square Premier

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How it's going: Premier League title & oldest ever Golden Boot winner

Vardy

When will Jamie Vardy's party finally come to an end? 

Leicester City's decision to gamble on a non-league goal machine has proven to be one of the greatest transfer masterstrokes in Premier League history. 

The now 33-year-old cost the Foxes a fee believed to be in the region of £1m, and since his move to the King Power Stadium he has become one of the most iconic figures in English football. 

Vardy's rise to prominence started when he spearheaded the attack in Leicester's unlikely 2016 title win, but any fears over him being a one-season wonder were clearly misplaced. 

The jet-heeled attacker won the Premier League Golden Boot award in the 2019/20 season and has continued his form into the new season, bagging five in four games so far. 

It's a rags to riches story worthy of a cinematic depiction and one that will remain immortalised in the fabric of English football history. 

Salford City

How it started: 7th tier side taken over by class of '92 in March 2014 

Salford

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How it's going: 4th place in League Two 

Salford City

The story of Salford City has been something of a diamond in the mud for North West-based football clubs. 

Macclesfield Town and Bury have both gone out of business in the past twelve months, while the futures of Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic have both been hanging in the balance due to ongoing financial troubles. 

Meanwhile, Stockport County, a side who were in the second tier of English football at the turn of the century, have plummeted into non-league obscurity, though they got back into the National League last year and look set to push for promotion into League Two this time round. 

Amid the struggles of the North West minnows, Salford City rose from a 7th tier side to a professional club in just five years, achieving four promotions in that time. 

Even with the backing of an esteemed group their surge up the ladder has been incredible, and the club look well on track to achieve Ryan Giggs' target of climbing into the Championship within 15 years. 

Alphonso Davies

How it started: Signs for Bayern Munich for MLS record fee 

Davies

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How it's going: Champions League & Bundesliga winner 

Davies

Bayern Munich paid £9.84m to sign Alphonso Davies when he was just 17 years old. The fee was the highest an MLS club had ever received for a player, and with that deal the expectation was instantly bestowed on Davies' young shoulders. 

It's always a gamble to sign a player before they've completed their development, but Bayern's decision to bring the Canadian to Germany was one of the wisest transfer swoops of recent times. 

The now 19-year-old played a pivotal role last season as the club clinched their eighth consecutive Bundesliga title and won the Champions League for the first time since 2013.

Manchester City 

How it started: Sir Alex Ferguson declares "not in my lifetime"

Ferguson

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How it's going: Serial trophy winners and dominant Manchester club

Man City title

Ok, so the Sheikh Mansour revolution at Man City did start before Sir Alex Ferguson's fateful stroke of arrogance, but there is something intrinsically apt about the contrast between his famous quote and subsequent events. 

Not only does it make for a fitting comparison, equally it demonstrates that there was a time when doubts over City's potential to assimilate into the established elite pervaded popular opinion. Nobody could buy their way to the top. It wasn't that easy. 

In 2009, when asked if Man United would ever head into a derby fixture as underdogs, Sir Alex cast out the fishing rod in search of hungry bait: "not in my lifetime". 

Eleven years later and the Red Devils' "noisy neighbours" boast a trophy cabinet comprising of four Premier League titles, two FA Cup and five League Cups. 

City's aggressive spending strategies, which have seen them embroiled in controversy regarding UEFA's FFP rules, have not won them too many admirers along the way, but their attractive brand of football is difficult to dismiss. 

And having finished above their fierce local rivals for seven consecutive seasons - every season since Ferguson's retirement - it's fair to say that red has become synonymous with underdog in Manchester for the very first time. 

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