In theory, Jamie Vardy’s place in Roy Hodgson’s England squad for Euro 2016 should be secured.
This season he has broken a Premier League record by scoring in 11 consecutive games and been an integral reason for Leicester City’s rise to the upper echelons of the league.
Yet compared to the more established international strikers also vying for a place in France this summer, there is a far greater pressure on newcomer Vardy to keep the goals and performances coming.
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Six league games without finding the back of the net can hardly be constituted as a drought but it has raised questions suggesting Vardy’s previous streak was a one-off; a spectacular and history-making anomaly in his career.
To keep his place in the squad, he will have to maintain the impressive levels that forced him into Hodgson’s thinking. If a dip in form occurs he will need to ensure it is only a minor one, such is the competition for those few forward positions.
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If Hodgson has all of his cards to pick from this summer, Vardy may still not be high enough up the pecking order. The closest to him in terms of international inexperience is Harry Kane, although he has already scored three times in eight England appearances and has 32 in his last 55 league matches. In contrast, Vardy has yet to score for his country.
If fit, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge would surely also be ahead of the Sheffield man. Both have played at international tournaments and have a combined 19 international goals between them. Furthermore, Theo Walcott has demonstrated domestically that he can also perform as an out-and-out striker and could be a threat to Vardy.
Debates regarding Wayne Rooney’s place in the team persist yet England’s leading goalscorer will be the first name on the team sheet. That instantly takes away one of the forward positions in the squad Vardy will have been eyeing up with increasing belief and anticipation and the Manchester United captain’s return to form will only have strengthened his standing.
The 4-4-2 formation played by Leicester has enabled Vardy to thrive but such a set-up is rare for England, with Hodgson often playing with just one striker as part of a 4-3-3 or a diamond formation. Indeed, when Vardy has played it has been in an unnatural role on the wing, negating his ability to wreak havoc by running in behind and stretching defences.
There may only be three centre forward places in that final squad. To hold one of those positions Vardy must continue to at least match his striking rivals, while if his hope is to play as a winger then there are other natural wide players who will take prominence over him.
The admission from Hodgson that he wants to create a club environment within the England set-up to build unity and spirit could also work against Leicester’s number 9.
Could greater experience of this set-up enable strikers out of game-time or form to still get the nod ahead of relative international freshmen like Vardy?
Such an occurrence will be averted for Vardy if he can make his selection unavoidable by adding to that goal tally.
Vardy has done half the job. If he can keep it up, one of the most remarkable stories will have the ending it merits, with the man who was playing non-league football four years ago running out for England at an international tournament in six months time.
Jamie Vardy has most definitely been having a party this season. The pressure is on him to keep it going just a little while longer.
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