A 12th straight scoring appearance to equal a record that has stood in the English top flight since 1932 eluded Jamie Vardy yesterday. However, his former Leicester City team-mate Martyn Waghorn believes there is no reason why the 28-year-old cannot continue to help his team land blows that make them genuine Premier League challengers.
Vardy’s incredible goal-plundering feats – which have placed him alongside Blackpool’s Stan Mortensen, who also scored in 11 consecutive league games in 1950-51 – have underpinned the every bit as incredible ascent to the summit of the globe’s richest footballing set-up by Claudio Ranieri’s side. The 3-0 victory away to Swansea claimed courtesy of a hat-trick from Riyad Mahrez has allowed them to open up a two-point gap at the top of a set-up they almost dropped out of last season.
Yet nothing truly surprises Rangers striker Waghorn about where Vardy and the Midlands’ club find themselves. Both Waghorn and Vardy cost then Championship Leicester a £1 million down-payment, the former joining from Sunderland two years before Vardy was plucked from non-league Fleetwood Town. Parallels between the pair do not extend much beyond that with the exception of both sharing the same agent in John Morris.
Promoting the Leicester cause is something that Waghorn does in agent-like fashion when the subject is whether Vardy can scale greater heights in the English game. “This is his first year in the Premier League and he’s showing everyone what he can do,” the 25-year-old said. “But let’s not take anything away from Leicester. They’re an ambitious club too. When I was there they had a plan in place to get to the Premier League and it made you want to be a part of it. It brought so much confidence to every player.
“They are where they are for that reason. Leicester will be right up there this season. They’re young, they’re hungry and they work hard – they’re a bit like us. They want to achieve and all credit to them, with the way they’re playing at the moment, they fully deserve it.”
The same is true of Vardy. Waghorn remembers him as very much an ordinary Joe when he moved to Leicester in 2012. But he is sure his startling success won’t give the man Ranieri says has “lit up” the English top flight a flaming ego.
“He’s a down to earth lad, has a mess about, doesn’t give a monkey’s about much, football’s his life and it’s worked well for him. He won’t change much. He’s humble. he knows where he’s from and he’s grateful to be where he is,” Waghorn said of the Yorkshireman.
“The first year of the two I was with him he was a bit raw coming from non-league but he was full of endeavour, full of work-rate, always willing to learn and staying behind and doing extra. You could tell he’d had to work hard to come up the leagues, he’s pure graft so all credit to get to where he has.
“To be fair, he settled in quite quickly and although he didn’t score many, he brought a lot to the team. He brought nasty stuff to the game that lets other players do their job. It took him a year to adapt, but once he did he was a big character in our dressing room. I was only 22, 23 myself but we had a good set of strikers, the two of us, Dave Nugent, Jeff Schlupp, a few others. We had a good mix of experience and youth.”
Waghorn maintains he never doubted that Vardy would come good. “Maybe he might have doubted himself a bit, though,” Waghorn said. “But what we saw him bring to the team, we never had any doubts. Fair play to him though, the way he’s developed his game since them has been amazing, his finishing has come on loads and his overall team play and link-up play, looking at home as a striker, he’s brought a lot to the game. I’ve been rooting for him on this run.
“I know how big a step up it was for him from non-league to the Championship, and the expectations were high. And he didn’t start even last season that great, but his record at the minute is unbelievable. Only the best strikers in the world do what he did.”
Such a commendation explains why the patriotic Tynesider would have no problem with Harry Kane and Vardy forming the frontline partnership for England in next summer’s Euro 2016.
“They are the two best England strikers in the league right now,” Waghorn said. “There are bigger names with more caps and more experience, like [Daniel] Sturridge, [Danny] Welbeck, and [Wayne] Rooney, but they’re two young hungry players who want to work hard for their country and going into France, you need energy and character as well as quality.
“I know he [Vardy] doesn’t get fazed by anything or anybody, I know he’ll work hard and bring a lot to the team off the ball as well as goals, and in a championships you’re going to need a bit of pace on the counter attack if teams are pressing you as well. He has that.”
Right now, Vardy seems to have it all.