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F365 Says: Worried about Kane? The Vardy party starts now

‘He is both normal and abnormal,’ was the sentence George Caulkin chose in June 2016. Those six simple words neatly encapsulated the great non-league Premier League striker. Jamie Vardy is perhaps England’s finest oxymoron. That term naturally sounds like an insult, yet it is anything but. Vardy is a proven Premier League striker who only made his top-flight debut aged 27, a forward who scored five goals in a relegation battle one season and 24 en route to the title the next. He is an elite striker on a regimented diet of cans of Red Bull, double espressos and cheese-and-ham omelettes, a player who found it as natural to score in 11 consecutive league games in 2015 as to go three whole months without a goal in 2016. He has mastered the double act of Leicester regular and England irregular. Vardy has missed just one of his club’s last 40 Premier League games, and is the spearhead around which numerous managers have built. But it is a different story for his country. Of the 31-year-old’s 19 caps, only nine have been starts. Just three of those have come in competitive fixtures, the last of which was the goalless draw with Slovakia at Euro 2016. He has played 381 minutes under Gareth Southgate and 298 of those have come in friendlies. For a player who has been forced to acclimatise to the role of second fiddle at best at international level, Vardy has at least embraced his status. “It showed we can play a different system and that is what we will have to do,” he said of England’s trials of the 3-5-2 formation against Germany and Brazil in November. “We always need a Plan B or Plan C.” The same phrase was used in the latest England World Cup ladder, which placed the Leicester striker at No. 14, sandwiched between Phil Jones and Jack Butland. It reflected his role of squad player, impact substitute, a man Southgate said would “run through brick walls for us”, but would rarely be trusted with the tools to lay any foundations himself. For England at least, Vardy would forever be the bridesmaid, never the bride. That was until this weekend, when the Leicester striker jumped fastest and highest to catch the metaphorical bouquet that was an injury to Harry Kane. The wait to confirm the damage sustained to the Tottenham forward’s previously problematic right ankle goes on, but there should be none of the usual pre-tournament panic over a player’s fitness. Where inadequate back-up for Wayne Rooney forced his hasty – and eventually costly – recall in 2006, the presence of Vardy should settle the nerves. With less than three months to go until the World Cup, the Leicester striker is a precious commodity: a fully-fit in-form England player. Kane is sidelined, Raheem Sterling featured in his first game in a month on Monday, Dele Alli scored his first goal in 16 games on Sunday, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is excellent one week then suffering an existential crisis the next and Kyle Walker is arguably the only capped defender reaching the sort of standard the international stage demands. Vardy, with nine goals in his last 14 games, might be alone as a player heading to Russia on an individual high. Mohamed Salah, Kane, Sergio Aguero and Sterling are the only players to score more Premier League goals than Vardy this season. Glenn Murray, Wayne Rooney and Riyad Mahrez are the only other players outside the top six to score more than seven times. Kane, Aguero and Romelu Lukaku are the only players to score more Premier League goals since the start of the 2015/16 campaign. He has scored as many league goals (8) in ten games against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, City, United and Tottenham as Alexis Sanchez has managed all season. This is not the sort of company Vardy should be keeping for three weeks, never mind three years. And yet, when Southgate names his latest England squad on Thursday, he will do so with Vardy more assured and more deserving of his place than anyone else. The 31-year-old was one of a handful of players to start both goalless friendly draws with Brazil and Germany in November, partnered first with Tammy Abraham, then with Marcus Rashford. That same burden will be placed atop his shoulders against the Netherlands and Italy this month, but there need be no apprehension when it comes to life without Kane. He is undeniably England’s best player, but has only played one game in the formation Southgate is planning to use this summer. His back-up is already tried and tested. “I think Vardy is an important player for us as well, and will score goals, and give us a different threat with his pace,” said Southgate in October, the idea being that the “different threat” would be a useful weapon in the final 30 minutes of games and no more. Yet abnormal circumstances mean substitute is starter just three months away from the World Cup, and it is perfectly normal to be perfectly comfortable with the promotion of England’s Plan B. Matt Stead   The post F365 Says: Worried about Kane? The Vardy party starts now appeared first on Football365....

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Published By: Fottball 365 - Wednesday, 14 March, 2018







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