“Jamie Vardy’s having a party!” goes the boisterous song from Leicester fans. Sure, it’s the sort of party at which you might be a bit scared that the host will get drunk and make some questionable and decidedly un-PC/racist remarks, given that he’s got form for such a thing…but hey – everyone likes a party.
Particularly Leicester fans, who are riding Vardy’s extraordinary run of scoring in nine consecutive games straight into the Champions League places, and they’re quite rightly very excited about the whole thing. But then again, with excitement comes over-excitement, and a few people are just getting a little giddy, like those in the media who seriously started comparing Vardy to Gabriel Batistuta because Claudio Ranieri basically off-handedly mentioned that he’d managed both players, or the columnist who bullishly predicted that he would become the Premier League’s first £300,000-a-week player.
There’s a fine line between staying calm about Vardy’s extraordinary run and looking like a snob, the sort of person who doesn’t think a young man of limited means can make something of himself, or that a late-flowering player cannot ascend from non-league football to the national team.
Because it is prudent to be calm about the whole thing, to not get too worked up about a player who even last season wasn’t a regular starter in the Leicester team, only really properly establishing himself in March. Of course, it would be ignoring a rather obvious point not to note that his weekly appearance in the team almost directly coincided with Leicester’s stupendous run of form that firstly saw them survive with some comfort, then pull up a chair, stick their feet on the table and stick a hand down their pants in the Champions League places. Leicester have lost just twice (to Arsenal and Chelsea, when the latter were good) in the last 21 games, winning ten of those and with Vardy scoring 15 times in that sequence.
All of which is not to write Vardy off as a chancer on a good run: at some point a good run does become something more solid and lasting. What that point is, well, that’s a little unquantifiable, and much like love and pornography, you probably know it when you see it. He’s a relentless little git of a player, a little like Dirk Kuyt with pace, the sort of forward you can imagine defenders taking a deep sigh and cursing their luck that they have to mark for 90 minutes. He looks like a wonderful little bastard of a forward, the sort that most of us would like to have in our team.
He’s also clearly got some confidence about him, as it emerged this week that when Vardy moved to Leicester from Fleetwood, he had a clause inserted into his contract stating he’d get a bonus if he ever played for England. Plus, under his fiancee’s instruction, he has rearranged his wedding, which was due to take place in the middle of the European Championships, which given his call-up to the last few England squads, isn’t exactly a hubristic punt.
It seems incongruous that Vardy will be playing against Spain and France in England’s upcoming friendlies, but unless Roy Hodgson decides that he’d rather just flip the bird at frothing fans and journalists and not pick him, that’s exactly what he will be doing. The question is whether Uncle Roy has the stones to drop Wayne Rooney, in the middle of one of his extended ‘touch of a traffic bollard’ routines, or if he manages to find a way of cramming Rooney, Vardy, Raheem Sterling and possibly Harry Kane into the same team, like a sort of budget version of Brazil’s ‘magic square’ at the 2006 World Cup, when Carlos Alberto Parreira desperately tried to accommodate Ronaldinho, Kaka, Adriano and Ronaldo with largely unsatisfactory results.
Still, it wouldn’t be a massive surprise if Hodgson doesn’t pick him, because he’s in full preparation mode for next summer’s European Championships, and to pick Vardy now would be to imply that he thinks this run of form, or at least a version of it, will continue throughout the season. And of course, there’s no guarantee of that. The ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ cliché is usually used as a pep-up to an established player going through a ropey run (presumably Rooney is considering having it tattooed onto the inside of his eyelids), but it works the other way around too. What the phrase basically means is ‘look at this guy’s past record too’, and a glance at Vardy’s reveals nothing mind-blowing. That’s not to say Vardy shouldn’t be in the England team, but just that as a man who will be edging towards his footballing dotage at just the time his top-class career is really starting, it wouldn’t be the most ludicrous thing in the world if he wasn’t included in too many long-term plans.
One of the things about Vardy is that he doesn’t really look like a top-class striker. Olivier Giroud looks like one, tall with muscles and a powerful leap, but Vardy more resembles a glass collector in your local Wetherspoons, or that kid at school that was always getting done for nicking sweets and calling the teacher a wanker without realising he was being naughty. But, based on the last few months you’d have to be woefully obtuse or a star of Arsenal Fan TV to pick Giroud over Vardy at the moment.
He also has a hint of violence about his eyes, which is possibly no bad thing as a Premier League striker. One price of fame these days is that sooner or later some smart Alec will dig up something ill-advised you did on the internet years ago before anyone knew who you were. In Andy Carroll’s case that was a few iffy photos and a risque gag about his ‘snake’* on his Bebo (Bebo!) page, for Vardy it was a Facebook post in which he offered the indispensable life advice ‘chat sh*t get banged.’ We can assume the last word wasn’t that most indelicate euphemism for the physical act of love, but more a threat of violence: if you say anything that displeases Jamie, he’s going to thump you.
It’s also quite interesting that in among all the deserved praise he’s received for his on-field shenanigans, the unpleasant business in a casino isn’t mentioned quite as much, which does rather recall the attitude that some had towards Luis Suarez, that seemingly being dead good at football washed away all other sins. Maybe, given that Vardy rather swiftly apologised for that transgression, that’s slightly unfair.
Perhaps anyone doubting his international credentials will be placed under the ‘chatting sh*t’ banner. Perhaps he doesn’t actually belong with the international elite. Perhaps this is temporary form rather than personal class we’re seeing. Who knows. He’s good fun to watch though, isn’t he?
*Just to clarify, he was talking about his penis.