Sport Premier League

Sunday 15 December 2019

Foxes striker Vardy puts troubled past behind him in style

Jamie Vardy after scoring Leicester City's fourth goal against Manchester United at the King Power Stadium. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Jamie Vardy after scoring Leicester City's fourth goal against Manchester United at the King Power Stadium. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

Alan Smith

When it comes to high energy displays full of pace, conviction, aggression, determination and no little skill, this was about as good as it gets.

Jamie Vardy really did hit the heights yesterday. At the centre of everything for an irrepressible Leicester City, this tiger of a striker announced himself to the world by running Manchester United ragged.

If he plays for another 15 years, Vardy probably will not experience so much success against a club of United's stature. All this from a lad who was playing for Stockbridge Park Steels in the Northern Premier League a few years ago.

Back then this Sheffield-born prospect was a bit of a handful, getting into some serious scrapes with the law.

As he said himself afterwards, "it has not been an easy journey" but the 27-year-old can surely look forward now with a great deal of optimism, mainly because his insatiable appetite for the game sets him apart from many of his peers.

Take the way he terrorised Tyler Blackett down Leicester's right flank in the first half. This was pure speed wrapped up in naked aggression from a man who would not let go once he got a grip.

An early result was the sharp burst that prevented the ball from going out down by the corner flag before a marvellous cross set up Leonardo Ulloa's header.

Important to remember at this point that this was Vardy's first start for Leicester this season.

Nigel Pearson had changed his system to counter United's anticipated midfield diamond and Vardy's direct style formed an important part of a plan to get down the sides.

For a player whose pre-season was interrupted by injury Vardy showed incredible stamina to last the course.

His hefty shoulder barge on Rafael led to the dubious penalty that set the ball rolling for Leicester's sensational fight back.

Not many players would even have attempted that challenge, knowing that it would have almost certainly been called as a foul by the referee.

But Vardy weighed in like some kind of Seventies throwback to send Rafael crashing to the ground. By some remarkable quirk of fate Mark Clattenburg let the play continue, resulting in Vardy falling over under the right-back's light nudge.

Shortly after, he stayed alive on the edge of the box to knock Dean Hammond's shot back towards Esteban Cambiasso for a goal that lifted the roof off the stadium.

Heroic

This was heroic stuff from Leicester's No 9, with the best bit incredibly still to come.

When Ritchie De Laet set him up for a one-on-one with David de Gea, Vardy had a long time to think about his next move.

It is one thing acting on your instincts; doing things off the cuff, quite another showing composure in this kind of situation.

Amazingly enough, he was not finished there, retaining the wit and energy to nudge Blackett off balance on the halfway line before sprinting into the box to force the chasing Blackett into a foul that saw him sent off. No doubt about that one and no doubt at all about the man of the match.

Incredible to think that Vardy wanted to quit the game about 18 months back when personal problems off the pitch were getting too much. The Leicester coaching staff talked him around, convincing him that sanctuary lay on a match day. (© The Daily Telegraph)

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