When contemplating if we’ve ever had a player who is loved by Leicester fans, but hated by most others, only Robbie Savage really springs to mind over Jamie Vardy. The striker will hope that when he does eventually leave the Foxes, he’ll be held in better regard than Savage now is. Given what he’s already helped us achieve, it’s difficult to believe he’d go down as anything other than one of a kind, a hero for us.
Regardless of how you feel about him, it’s tough to deny that he was in the form of his life last season and for the most part, unstoppable. His consecutive goal scoring record will likely be there waiting to be matched or beaten for quite a while and his rise from non-league player to Premier League winning star is a story that will inspire and ignite aspiring footballers around the country. It’s what made it harder when he struggled, along with the whole team, earlier in the current campaign for Leicester.
His return to form has come at the perfect time for Craig Shakespeare. There’d be signs of the old Vardy reappearing prior to Shakespeare taking the reigns, but the Liverpool game confirmed what most Foxes fans had been sure of, he wasn’t a one season wonder. He made life tough that night for the Reds defenders, along with many others before, and helped secure a key three points, two goals bumping up his tally. Prior to that game, some betting companies had been offering favourable odds on him not to score ten goals before the end of the season, an insult at best. He now needs just two more.
It’s about a lot more than just the goals, helpful and confidence boosting as they are. When Vardy is fully committed and having a good game, it’s the lift that it brings to the Foxes fans. There are many things he’s associated with, some great and some that are not so positive, those we’ll come back to, such as the charging down a full-back and sliding in to knock the ball out of play down the touch line. It shows passion, aggression and it generally unsettles the opposition. Fans love it, though. When he’s in that kind of mood, he’s a joyous nuisance to behold. It shifts defensive focus more onto him too, freeing up those around him and opening up empty spaces. We’ve utilised that type of move several times now.
Part of having Vardy is also the wind up element of his game, the boundary pushing with his opponents. He’s the type of player that if Leicester fans had watched their team struggle against and concede a penalty or red card to, we’d probably dislike him as well. He’s that kind of player, much like Diego Costa is for Chelsea. More recently he’s been labelled a cheat and a dive due to various incidents and it’s hard to defend him for some of them. You can’t fault his commitment though, he’s the kind of player who self flagellates when it doesn’t go his way, punching his own face or head butting the pitch. It’d be easy to believe he may have accidentally self inflicted his own black eye in such an incident. Yes, at times it feels like it lets him down a little, but it’s a part of his game and we love having him up front for us.
It was a frustrating time to have an international break in some ways. Under Shakespeare’s management, we look revived and refocused and we had a good run going. Yes, the break is good for some to rest their legs but for our key players, the majority have been on national duty, travelling and plenty. In the case of Vardy, he got possibly more game time than expected and notched a goal in the World Cup qualifier, further helping his chances of making the final squad for Russia next year. It was a simple goal by his standards but important for him to make a mark while the likes of Harry Kane are out injured. It currently puts him ahead of the latter in the goals scored for England list, not something I expected to happen if we’re honest.
April starts with a Premier League game before back to back legs of the Champions League quarter-finals (yes, that is still sinking in a little, and no less exciting either). It’s another big month for the club, in what has felt like a big year thus far. Sevilla seemed uncomfortable in dealing with a striker of Vardy’s mould and we’ll hope that Atletico have the same issues. It’s going to take an almighty team effort to see them off, but one a player like he’ll relish. He got his first Champions League goal in the last round and won’t want it to be his last. Whatever the outcome, it would certainly provide a fitting end to his upcoming film too.