Vardy brings Leicester spirit to England quest

Chantilly (France) (AFP) – Encouraged from afar by his club manager Claudio Ranieri, Jamie Vardy is carrying Leicester City’s limitless ambition into England’s assault on Euro 2016.

Having sat out England’s opening draw with Russia, Vardy made an instant impact as a half-time substitute against Wales, netting an equaliser 11 minutes after coming on as Roy Hodgson’s men came from behind to win 2-1.

Ranieri was quick to offer his congratulations, as Vardy revealed to journalists on Saturday, messaging the 29-year-old striker to say: “Congratulations champ.”

While he continues to be linked to Arsenal, Vardy makes no secret of his fondness for Ranieri, beaming: “All he’s bothered about is attacking!”

He must now hope that Hodgson, too, was sufficiently impressed with his display against Wales to award him a starting berth in Monday’s meeting with Slovakia.

The sensation of the Premier League season, Vardy’s 24 goals fired Leicester to the title and saw him win multiple Player of the Year awards.

The milestones continued to arrive as he was called into England’s squad for the Euro and then tied the knot with his partner, Rebekah. They had previously had to scrap their marriage plans three times.

It caused him to miss England’s 2-1 friendly win over Australia and it was Harry Kane who arrived in France as Hodgson’s first-choice striker, but a clamour is now growing for Vardy to take his place.

While he is phlegmatic about his chances of breaking into the starting XI, Vardy’s 5,000-1 triumph with Leicester has convinced him that England should have no qualms about aiming for the stars.

“There’s no point being afraid of teams,” he said at England’s media centre in Chantilly, north of Paris.

“You’ve just got to go out there with the mindset that whoever you’re up against, you can beat them.

“Anyone’s beatable, it’s as simple as that. That’s the mindset we need and hopefully we’ll take it into games.”

Vardy’s story, which has seen him rise from non-league footballer to Premier League champion and England international in the space of just four years, is now well known.

– ‘England, England, England’ –

But he says: “I always pinch myself. It’s no secret where I’ve come from with my football and I’ll always remember where I did come from.

“To be scoring in a European Championship for your country is unbelievable, but I’ll always pinch myself to make sure I stay grounded.”

Vardy is thought to be considering an approach from Arsenal, who have reportedly triggered his £20 million ($28.7 million, 25.5 million euros) release clause.

He was reluctant to discuss the matter, however, and said that there were no developments to report.

“We’re here for England,” said Vardy, whose team require a point against Slovakia in Saint-Etienne to reach the last 16.

“There is only one thing you want to do and that is to play football to the best of your ability.

“If you let things start distracting you, then you’re not going to be able to do that, which will then jeopardise the team as well.

“So everything gets completely blanked out except for England, England, England.”

Looking beyond Euro 2016, Vardy will undergo an operation after the tournament to repair “two big cracks” in his right wrist, but says he will only be sidelined for three weeks.

He is bringing out an autobiography, “My Story”, in October and revealed that a film charting his rags-to-riches tale is slated for release in 2017.

“It’s happening,” he said. “It’s out in 2017, from what I’ve been told. I think they’re just getting all the actors sorted.”

In response to a question about who will play him, as well as a cheeky entreaty about who might take on the role of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, he would only say: “I’m not at liberty to say.”

“I can’t tell you much about the film,” he added. “You’ll have to go and watch it.”

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