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England international deserves more credit than he is getting

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Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa, Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane, Christian Benteke, Daniel Sturridge, Romelu Lukaku. The Premier League certainly has its fair share of quality strikers at the moment.

Some are appreciated more than others, some are currently doing the business, some are floundering. They are names that rarely go amiss these days, on form or not.

Yet amongst all the hype and talk over the top flight's top forwards, there is a guy at Leicester City who, at this moment in time, is outshining them all. 

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Jamie Vardy has come a long way in the last three years. From joining Leicester for a non-league record fee of £1 million after flourishing at Fleetwood Town, to becoming the Premier League's top goalscorer so far this season, one thing is for sure, the 28 year-old has worked hard to get to where he is now.

It was in fact Vardy's goalscoring exploits during Leicester's dominant 2013/14 promotion campaign from the Championship that first made people sit up and take note. He found the net 16 times, resulting in Leicester's Players' Player of the season award. He was seen as an integral figure during the journey back to the Premier League.

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Yet the top tier of English football is a league with no mercy and has found the best in the world wanting, never mind a player who was playing non-league football two years prior. 

Granted, Vardy scored only five league goals during Leicester's first Premier League season for ten years and his dip in form after the frenetic start to the campaign coincided with a poor run of results for the Foxes.

Yet as Leicester racked up the wins when they seemed down and out, Vardy found his feet again as scored the crucial winner at Burnley, as well as the first goal in the final day 5-1 demolition of QPR.

It was no surprise that the striker and his club's upturn in form coincided yet again. He also bagged an impressive eight assists during his team's remarkable escape.

By the time of the 2014/15 season, Vardy had already picked up the reputation as a 'work horse'. On average this season Vardy makes 1.4 out of 1.9 tackles attempted -  the most out of any Premier League centre forward.

It is an admirable effort in an age where players, especially forwards, are scrutinised. His work-rate allows his teammates to hold their shape and stay much more stable in midfield and at the back - a feature of Leicester's play so far this season. 

He has received praise from Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville, who said on Monday Night Football: "He's a centre-forward I think 95 per cent of teams would love to have within their pool of strikers because of the fact that he sets the tempo and the tone for the rest of the team and gives no other player behind him any excuse for not working hard. 

"He's always involved, he gets in where it hurts. He's non-stop [in training], never stops running. He's got massive energy and he's now starting to get the goals that he did at the lower levels of English football."

That, combined with his superb goalscoring form, earned Vardy an England call up in June and he immediately made an impression. 'Vardy's form for Leicester is outstanding, he's been scoring goals but his work rate is exceptional, too', tweeted his fellow countryman, Theo Walcott. It looks increasingly more like Vardy will bring another dimension to the England attack. 

However, the call-up, which was then followed by a first start for his country in September, has mainly been down to the dramatic improvement in Vardy's finishing. The former Fleetwood man has nine goals so far and his netted in each one of his last six league appearances.

If he scores against Crystal Palace, he will  become just the eighth player in Premier League history to score in seven consecutive fixtures, joining the likes of Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer and Ruud van Nistelrooy in achieving the feat. Not bad company to be in. 

"It's a massive return that, scoring nine goals at this stage of the season," Neville told Monday Night Football. "If he can maintain that, he's got all the qualities you'd want in respect of a centre-forward."

Vardy's tally, bettered only by Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in Europe at the moment, has been the catalyst to Leicester's fantastic start to the season, which has lifted them into the top six. 

His conversion rate of 30 per cent can't be ignored either, and Leicester's fast tempo football is credited by having a man of Vardy's finishing calibre. "I'm an Italian but I'm a strange Italian," said Vardy's boss Ranieri, as quoted by Sky Sports.

"I would never take 0-0 beforehand. Since I've been here, only once, in a friendly match, have we maintained a clean sheet. This is our weakness, but it's also important to score one more goal than the other team."

It is perhaps fortunate for Vardy that the pace at which Ranieri wants his team to play at matches almost perfectly with his talisman's non-stop approach in creating, scoring and working hard to win the ball back from the opposition. It is a link that may determine how high the Foxes finish. 

Curiously, without being recognised as one of the league's top speedsters, Vardy also has plenty of pace to make him even more dangerous. He has recently been clocked at 35.44 km/h, the fastest sprint this season. His pace in behind defences once again works perfectly with Leicester's counter-attacking style of play. 

If that wasn't enough, Vardy has created three clear-cut openings for his team-mates - the only striker in the league to do so. In addition, he also has fashioned 15 chances, the most out of any forward this season. 

Whether he can keep this exceptional form up, however, is another issue and Ranieri will be sincerely hoping that Vardy does not suffer the same fate as another Englishman, Bournemouth's Callum Wilson whose promising season - five league goals from his first six games - was curtailed due to a knee ligament injury.

Potential injuries notwithstanding, the chances that the Vardy creates on a consistent basis provide reason to believe that this could be the season that he joins the Premier League's elite strikers. Maybe we should all just appreciate Jamie Vardy more. After all, he's worked damn hard for it. 

England fans: Will Vardy be in Hodgson's starting line-up at Euro 2016? Have YOUR say in the comments section below!

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Premier League
Leicester City
Football

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