So who, at the beginning of the season, would have thought that Jamie Vardy would be packing his bags to play for England in France this summer?
Not you – no one I know of either.
Like a flash, Vardy’s rise to prominence has been nothing short of meteoric and not only has he been playing for a Leicester team punching way above it’s weight, but now the man playing in non-league football just a few years ago has his first England goal as well. Quite a season.
Both Harry Kane and Vardy are surely convinced they can thrive at international level despite their exploits for club and country potentially establishing them as marked men at the summer’s European Championship.
Certainly before the game in Berlin, Germany Boss Joachim Low knew all about the threat the Leicester man posed.
“We did watch him and he is a spectacular player,” he said. “A great performance, we did talk about him the last couple of days, not only him, but he is a player who is straightforward and is always looking to find the gap in the defence and get in behind the defence.
“That is where it hurts the most and I think that is one of his biggest qualities.”
After the terrific comeback win over Germany at the Olympiastadion on Saturday night, the whole of Europe will be aware not just of Vardy, but of Kane and England as a whole.
Vardy and Kane, who have 40 Premier League goals between them this term, were briefly team-mates at Leicester City in the Championship three seasons ago, starting on the bench and their collective brace inspired England to another famous win, and this time over the reigning world champions no less.
Vardy said: “Football is a funny game and things can change so quickly. It shows what hard work and dedication can do. We have all come a long way, but it does not stop here. We have a lot more hard work to do to keep progressing and moving forward.”
“Maybe I will be a marked man in the summer. Again, that is football. If you want to be one of the top players in the world, you have to deal with that. I am happy for the challenge. I want to keep working hard, to keep getting better and better and to have more nights like that on Saturday, scoring more goals for England because they are special. You dream about scoring against teams like Germany on the big stage.”
While Kane scored his fourth goal in nine appearances for England, that sublimely taken goal was Vardy’s first international strike and there are surely more to come. The word is that Vardy will start against the Netherlands on Tuesday, but his play and his goal against Germany justified Joachim Low’s pre-match suggestion that the 29-year-old is “a spectacular player”.
Vardy continued: “If people get to know how I play, that just means I have to go and work harder when I am on the training field,” he said. “I have to look at ways I can still hurt them that. It’s down to a lot of hard work now which I am more than happy to keep doing. It’s good to have as much competition for places as possible.”
The 29-year-old has scored 19 goals this season to help take Leicester five points clear at the top of the Premier League, as they head for their first title and their first taste of Champions League football next year. He also scored in a record 11 consecutive Premier League matches in 2015, breaking Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record, but for this season, so far, that goal was the high point of the enthralling fairy-tale.
“Yeah, it’s definitely the high point of the season. When you start off as sub you want to come on and try and make an impact if possible and I’ve done that in the first few touches and we’ve gone on to win the game.
“I just wanted to get across the near post. The ball can go in any position and at the near post I can get something on it. Luckily I’ve tried the little back-heel and pulled it off. It just shows what a team we have got and the character in the squad.”
It just shows what a gem Nigel Pearson unearthed when he bought Vardy from Fleetwood Town in May 2012 for a reported fee of £1m, a non-League record.
At 29 years old, he is a bit of late starter, but then so was Ian Wright and Italy’s Salvatore Schillaci, if you remember him from the 1990 World Cup?
If you have the talent and more importantly, the self belief, then the world is indeed your oyster.