Sunday 19 January 2020

Rodgers' faith in Vardy has paid dividends

Jamie Vardy ‘is very much a team player’. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
Jamie Vardy ‘is very much a team player’. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Ian Parkes

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers believes he has instilled in Jamie Vardy the confidence to prove he is one of the best strikers in Europe.

The Premier League's leading scorer heads to Aston Villa today in inspired form, scoring in each of his last seven appearances, and with nine in total in those games to take his tally to 14 for the season, and 23 overall following Rodgers' arrival in February.

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It is a stunning about-turn for the 32-year-old, who struggled last season for goals under Claude Puel prior to the Frenchman's sacking.

"The huge credit is to him," insisted Rodgers. "He's an incredible talent who has all the attributes that big teams look for in their profile of a striker - fast and hard working. Through all my days, that's the profile of player I like, too.

"Coming into here, I knew he was one of best in Europe, and it was a case of giving him the confidence to show that.

"Sometimes players can get into their early 30s and be written off. But in seeing his energy and speed, it was a case of him fitting into how we wanted to work, which I felt would be fairly easy.

"And he wants to work, to run in behind, to press, so with how I like teams to play, he was a natural.

"So the huge praise goes to him, to take on board what we wanted, and then to have that consistency and hunger, and that's proven very impressive."

Unlike many strikers, Vardy has also displayed an altruistic nature and team ethic that has also delighted Rodgers.

"That's what makes him a joy to work with," said Rodgers. "He wants to score goals, but he also wants to create goals. He is a very selfless player.

"The work he puts in for the team, in his pressing but also his assist-making, his thought isn't like some strikers who are purely there to score the goals and think of themselves.

"That can be a good trait, but Jamie is very much a team player. Everything he does is in the best interests of the team, and when you have someone like that at his level, it's great to have that quality and mindset in the team."

Today, Rodgers is wary of Villa's own special talent in captain Jack Grealish - who is earning rave reviews for his displays this season following the club's promotion to the top flight.

"Jack has always had that big talent," said Rodgers, "And he's a real talisman for them, someone who can make a pass and is very creative. He's a player we have to be mindful of."

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