England boss Roy Hodgson has tried, by his own admission “unsuccessfully” to defuse the hype surrounding Jamie Vardy.
Vardy’s fairytale rise from non-league journeyman to top-flight star shows no sign of ending any time soon.
The Leicester forward, who was playing non-league football just three years ago, has started the season in fine form and is the most prolific marksman in the Premier League this season.
The 28-year-old tops the league scoring charts with 11 goals in as many matches. If he scores in his next two matches he will become the only striker other than Ruud van Nistelrooy to score in 10 successive Premier League games.
With Vardy in such fantastic form, it came as no surprise that Hodgson named the striker in his squad for this month’s marquee friendlies when it was announced on Thursday.
Yet Hodgson made it clear after naming his 23-man party that there are no guarantees Vardy will start either in Alicante next Friday or versus the French in London four days later.
Of Vardy’s prospects, Hodgson explained: “I am just trying, as I sometimes try to do – always unsuccessfully – to defuse hype and make one very important point – that an England shirt is a valuable commodity.
“When you have only (started) two games you are in no position to go to the coach and say ‘I will play for England but only in this position’. That is the point I am trying to make.
“His job, I think, should be definitely to try to convince that he has got the ability to play as a forward in an England team and not get too hung up like some people if he only plays here [in a certain position].
“I think Jamie Vardy can play in any of the front three positions.
“Jamie has only played a couple of games from the start. He should be happy at the moment a) to be in the squad and b) even happier if he makes the team.”
Hodgson praised the former Halifax and Fleetwood forward for beating the likes of Sergio Aguero, Wayne Rooney and Diego Costa to the top of the scoring charts.
“I have been pleasantly surprised with him,” said Hodgson, who has handed Vardy all four of his England caps.
“When we selected him, I don’t think there were a lot of people in the room saying, ‘Fantastic – that is a great idea as Jamie Vardy is the obvious man’. And now you are. That is all credit to him.”
Eric Dier was the only surprise in Hodgson’s squad.
The uncapped Tottenham player has made nine appearances for the England Under-21s.
But in November last year he opted out of playing for Gareth Southgate’s team against Portugal and France as he said he wanted to go back to Tottenham to work on his game as a centre-half, rather than play at right-back.
Hodgson said he was unconcerned by the episode last year.
“It doesn’t interest me really, it was a matter between him and Gareth,” Hodgson said of Dier, who moved back to England last summer following a 13-year spell living and playing in Portugal.
“I have never had any cause to doubt his desire to play for England. He is very keen to join up with us now from what I hear.
“He is a central defender who is capable of stepping forward and doing a good defensive job in the centre of midfield to allow other players around him to show of their more extravagant talents.”
Dier would probably not be in the squad had Hodgson’s preparations not been disrupted by injuries to 13 regulars.
Theo Walcott, Daniel Sturridge, Jack Wilshere, Luke Shaw, Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines are among the main casualties, but Hodgson is not worried about being without a raft of his best players before Euro 2016.
“November to June is a very long period of time and so many things can happen,” he said.
Expectations of beating the two glamorous upcoming opponents have been tempered by the injuries, however.
“They will certainly stretch us to our limit,” Hodgson said.
“We will see how these boys do. We will certainly learn a lot after these two games. I will be wiser than I am today and hopefully have my feet still on the ground.”
Hodgson backed “embryonic” plans to play a home England game away from Wembley prior to the tournament in France.
He said: “I would like to take England to an audience that maybe only otherwise get to see us on television.”