Striker’s fairytale shows importance of believing in young English talent
came onto our radar at Tottenham when he had moved to Swindon Town at the age of 20. It shows that you just never know.
I am certain that we are producing quality footballers throughout England and, looking at the way Vardy, Austin and Lambert have developed, you do have to wonder how many other players with similar potential could have been missed by Premier League clubs who might be focusing on other markets around the world. You need talent but you also need someone to believe in you. Ian Wright, Stuart Pearce, Les Ferdinand and, going back even further, Alan Devonshire, were all players who had great careers after coming up through non-league.
Look also at the Bournemouth team. OK, people will say they have slipped down the table recently but that has been because of all the injuries. They totally outplayed Newcastle a few weeks ago and have done the same to plenty of even better teams this season and yet they are also full of players who have come up through the lower leagues. The difference is that they have had a manager in Eddie Howe who has given them a chance.
Working your way up into the Premier League can sometimes also be an advantage. As a manager, you often find that these players are hungrier and more grounded. They have seen the other side and will do everything to make the most of their chance. I bet Vardy wakes up every morning thinking how fantastic this all is. He is now 28 but he deserves his chance for England.
He might not be the biggest or most sexy name but he has been the best striker in the Premier League this season and there is no reason why he cannot keep producing at this level. He can also play a big part for England at the European Championship finals next summer. He is the sort of striker defenders hate to play against. He has got pace and energy; he tracks back and does not give you a moment to relax. His confidence is sky high and he is also showing how well he can finish.
Leicester City’s system also suits him and you have to give Claudio Ranieri and Nigel Pearson a massive amount of credit. They turned the corner at the end of last season under Nigel and some of their football this season has been fantastic. It was a horrendous result for Newcastle on Saturday but Leicester are very solid defensively and they have got pace. Another big factor has been Wes Morgan; someone else who has got his chance after coming up from the Football League with Leicester and before that Nottingham Forest.
He is now in his 30s but the centre-back partnership he is forming with Robert Huth – another fantastic buy and an unsung hero this season – has been one of the best in the Premier League. We had something similar when I was at Portsmouth and Linvoy Primus, who had not played so much at the highest level, was fantastic for me later in his career alongside Sol Campbell. Again, it was an example of what can be achieved with an opportunity and the right attitude.
Can Leicester keep it up? I have also had some unfancied teams climb high up the table in the first half of a season and it is very difficult to stay there. Over a season, the added quality and strength in depth of the clubs with the greatest resources is usually decisive. The top six, though, is now very possible for Leicester and that would still be a remarkable achievement.
Players who work their way up are often hungrier and will do everything to take their chance