Friday 16 November 2018

Can Vardy give England – and Hollywood – a fairy-tale ending this World Cup?

The striker is now preparing to step out on the “biggest stage for any international footballer”.

Jamie Vardy is preparing for the World Cup with England
Jamie Vardy is preparing for the World Cup with England

By Simon Peach and Rory Dollard, Press Association Sport

Jamie Vardy’s remarkable rise continues at this summer’s World Cup, where Hollywood script writers are hoping for a “fairy-tale ending” to the England striker’s story.

The former non-league player had not even made his Premier League debut when the Three Lions headed to Brazil four years ago.

But now Vardy is an established top-flight performer and England international, scoring seven goals in 21 appearances for his country and bound for Russia after playing at Euro 2016.

Yet the most striking part of the ex-Stocksbridge Park Steels frontman’s rise came at Leicester, having helped them out of the Championship, to stave off relegation and then, incredibly, a 5,000-1 shot Premier League triumph in 2016.

So extraordinary has the 31-year-old’s rise been that Hollywood producers are planning a movie about his life, although they have yet to finish the script.

Asked if filmmakers are waiting for a dream World Cup ending, Vardy told BBC Radio 5 Live: “I’m not really sure!

“I do know that it’s happening so it’s down to the directors and the script writers.

“The waiting is nothing down to me, they know what they want. If this is what they’re waiting for – a fairy-tale ending – then so be it.”

Hollywood may have taken notice but Vardy has had little time to digest his journey through the divisions.

Still a non-league player just six years ago, the striker is now preparing to step out on the “biggest stage for any international footballer” at the age of 31.

“You just want to keep getting better and better so if you can do it on the big stage, and it helps your team-mates out, obviously with what football means to the country, we’re all excited about that,” Vardy said.

“You’ve seen the way the boss has gone about it. He’s picked a lot of players who were in form and rightly so, they deserve to have the call-up.

“He’s going for it. It’s a young squad, anything can happen and, in our heads, we know we can win it.

“But in our heads we’ve got to make sure we’re on our game every day. Make sure we’re 100 per cent and working to get as far as possible.”

But mental strength has rarely been a cornerstone of England sides, with Vardy part of the side that floundered at Euro 2016.

The loss to Iceland was a galling end to a dream season, when the striker’s displays brought a tantalising offer from Arsenal.

“I wouldn’t say irritation,” Vardy said. “There was a lot of time with us in our rooms for us to think about it.

“It wasn’t something you could put to the back of your mind but I made my decision back then and not looked back since.

“I’ve carried on playing my football, doing well for my club and that’s what got me the chance to go a World Cup.”

That form has also brought about a surprise link to Atletico Madrid this summer, but there is little chance of the striker letting up this chance to fulfil a World Cup dream.

“You have to look at Michael Owen’s goal against Argentina,” he said, reminiscing about the 1998 edition. “Just literally ran (past) half of their team and slots it top corner.

“If I remember rightly, Paul Scholes was running on to it to get the shot but Owen wasn’t letting him have any of that and fair play to him.

“There’s obviously similarities pace-wise (between us), but each player is different. We all have our own attributes and we play to them.”

There are also difference between players’ preparations, with Vardy’s unconventional journey bringing an unorthodox diet for an elite footballer.

“It didn’t take the headlines because of me – you boys wanted a story,” Vardy said referring to the quirks outlined in his autobiography.

“My diet is slightly different, but it hasn’t changed the way I’m playing.

“There’s no glass of port anymore. I’m getting too old for that. I’ve got rid of that definitely.

“There’s still the odd Red Bull in there but it’s not done me any harm and I’ve been raring all season so I’ll keep that going.”

Press Association

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