It is very rare for Gary Neville to suggest a 28 year old could become a big star, with such a comment reserved for a player ten years the junior of Jamie Vardy. However, this is where Vardy finds himself.
Having just notched his tenth goal in as many games, in the process barging his way into esteemed goalscoring company like Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ian Wright Vardy is fast becoming a name on every managers lips who’s team line up to face off against the staggeringly improved Foxes.
So many have forgotten that Leciester were, until Christmas, lying at the foot of the Premier League with very little reason for optimism. A thoroughly applaudable escape led to their Premier League preservation, and Claudio Ranieri came in. At this point Vardy had chalked up five goals in his debut season at the top of the domestic league pyramid, which was steady, but nothing to suggest he would become a sensation with the rapidity he is currently demonstrating.
The purchase of Riyad Mahrez may very well have proved the catalyst for Vardy’s exploits. Of the five assists Mahrez has to his name in his first season of English football, Vardy has successfully dispatched three of them. Their link up play has proved brilliant at times, with the back up brigade of Daniel Drinkwater, the rejuvenated Nathan Dyer and the persistently hard working Marc Albrighton coming to the duo’s aid on many an occasion.
Not only is Vardy scoring goals at a steadily consistent level now, he is gradually improving his all-round performance. His reading of the game and his gambling on loose balls are leading to more chances in the box, his determination and speed giving him an edge over defences containing big names like Laurent Koscielny and Jose Fonte. He is now developing into a ‘roaming’ striker, occasionally testing his own prowess on long range shots and playing key passes for his team mates, which would certainly give rise to the belief he is making a name as one of the most dangerous on British shores – up with Messrs Aguero and Sanchez, – in his overall playing manner rather than just a fox in the box.
A baffling part of Leicester’s setup is the decision to leave Mahrez on the bench initially – with the electric Algerian not being introduced until half time on 1 of the last 3 occasions. Though Vardy is still a force without him, with Mahrez playing in the attacking midfield role behind the combative Englishman, something extra is added, something that seems to exacerbate the Foxes attacking display with every game that progresses.
Even at 28, Vardy’s timing is matchless for England. With Rooney hitting 30, Sturridge’s injury issues a big cause for concern, and Harry Kane’s domestic potency seemingly running a little dry, Vardy has made every effort to show he could be England’s leading man. With friendlies approaching against Spain and France, Hodgson must surely be thinking about unleashing Vardy upon steadfast European opposition.
When Euro 2016 comes around, Vardy will be 29, and possibly his only chance at a major outing with the England squad. Admittedly he is showing absolutely no sign of his imperious form withering, but age is not on his side, certainly with Theo Walcott improving vastly, and the possibility of Kane’s form returning a very real one, he must maintain both form and fitness for the next seven months.
As the autumn internationals draw closer, and the media focus on Vardy begins to glow ever brighter, now is the time for him to be as level headed as he has ever been, and maintain the combative attitude that could see him become what Gary Neville predicted he could be.