By Dave Smith
JAMIE Vardy could not report for international duty in better goalscoring form – or in a better frame of mind.
What a season it has been for the Leicester striker who deserves to be in the company of established England stars.
Nine goals in nine successive Premier League games already means Vardy’s name is up there in lights.
Only Ruud Van Nistelrooy with ten in ten stands above him in the history books – but the former Manchester United striker did it over two seasons.
So Vardy is officially unique and his rise from non-league to Premier League stardom, and the international stage, in the space of a few years is wonderful.
Called up again to the England squad for the friendlies against Spain (Friday) and France (next Tuesday) is no more than he deserves.
Some are suggesting he should start alongside Harry Kane, with Wayne Rooney in behind, and that sounds an exciting prospect.
Either way, it is a sensational rise to fame for the Leicester striker who is acknowledged for his work ethic as much as his obvious goalscoring talents.
Claudio Ranieri has continually sung his praises although, after Vardy made it nine in nine from the spot in the 2-1 win against Watford at the weekend, the Leicester boss also hailed strike partner Riyad Mahrez.
“When Riyad Mahrez gave Jamie the penalty, it was a great moment,” Ranieri said on the BBC sport website. “We have two strikers who can shoot the penalty, they choose on the pitch who feels good, and they can shoot. Riyad said to him ‘you take it’.”
Ranieri was asked if Vardy can break Van Nistelrooy’s record. Leicester’s next match is the trip to Newcastle United on 21 November. “I hope,” Ranieri said. “The break is not so good for us in this moment.”
There has been a debate about whether England manager Roy Hodgson should play Vardy through the middle rather than on the flanks, but Ranieri would not be drawn on the issue.
“When he plays in the middle he can attack on the left or right, when he stays on the left he can attack in just one area,” Leicester’s manager said. “But this is my team, Roy has another team. For us it’s important he scores goals for us.” Not anyone else, even though Vardy is being linked with other clubs.
It has been an amazing start to the season for Leicester, inspired by Vardy, and Ranieri added on teamtalk.com: ”We could not have imagined this, but it is only November. It’s not May. We still have to achieve 40 points first.
“Jamie is fantastic. He’ll be fit for England. After the goal he continued to run and fight – he’s OK. “It is important to continue the momentum. It’s not easy for us, but we are very ambitious.”
Watford’s manager, Quique Sánchez Flores, was also full of praise for Vardy. “He connects with the fans in the stand,” the Spaniard said. “The energy of this player is very positive, always running, always pressing, always trying to get behind the defensive line.”