Jamie Vardy is desperate to secure a place in England’s Euro 2016 squad – and hopes he can move on from his racial slur storm earlier this year.
The 28-year-old Leicester and England forward made headlines for all the wrong reasons in August, when footage emerged showing him racially abusing a fellow gambler.
Leicester handed Vardy a substantial fine and ordered diversity awareness training after an incident which has understandably taken the gloss off the striker’s remarkable start to the season.
Seven goals in eight matches puts the Englishman top of the Premier League scoring charts and it is form he wants to continue as he tries to move on from that shameful moment.
“I regretted it massively,” Vardy said.
“It was very uncharacteristic of me and that is why I wanted to meet the chap himself.
“We sat down and had a chat and just said it was literally silly, stupid. Things were said on both sides, we shook hands and that was it, it was done.
“As far as I’m concerned I just want to concentrate on my football now and let my feet do the talking.
“I appreciate all the backing that I had. There was a lot of support out there and it was a massive learning curve.
“It was uncharacteristic and stupid of me but I’ve learnt my lesson and moved on and just want to concentrate on my football.”
City’s decision not to sack the striker was perhaps a catalyst for this season’s fine form, having risen from non-league football to enjoy the best form of his career.
It has led to comparisons with former Leicester and England striker Gary Lineker – flattering comments but Vardy is more aware than most how quickly he can be “chucked out of that bracket”.
“The secret’s just lots and lots of hard work and the motivation that this is exactly what I want to be doing,” he said ahead of Monday’s final Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania.
“It’s putting into practice on the training field, making sure that it’s there on matchday.
“As long as I put the work in all the way to the training field, or even if it’s just in the back garden at home, it needs to be done to make sure you better yourself and you can make that transition and the step up.”
Vardy on Pearson
Hard work and dedication has been a hallmark of Vardy’s career, which started at boyhood club Sheffield Wednesday before taking him to Stocksbridge Park Steels, Halifax, Fleetwood and then Leicester.
He will forever be thankful to Nigel Pearson for giving him a chance at the King Power Stadium, where the Foxes are flying high in fifth under successor Claudio Ranieri.
“When he came in, he said he watched us all the way through the end of the season when we were on our great run – the ‘great escape’ as it was called in the papers,” Vardy said.
“He said he didn’t want to change much. He saw what we had and what was good and just wanted to change slight little things, and that is what he’s done.
“He’s not changed the way we play, he’s kept that all the same and is so tactically bright with the opposition.
“He’s constantly watching the next opponents and even when we’ve played them we might do a few tactics on the Monday about the game we just had.
“So he’s brilliant tactics-wise and it is working for us.”
Euro 2016 squad hopes
A season that started off so badly is now shaping up to be one to remember for Vardy, with a place in the Euro 2016 squad tantalisingly close for a player that a few years ago was grabbing fast-food on the way to training after a long day at work.
“No one can take their place for granted,” Vardy said. “It’s all up to me.
“If I want to be in that squad, I’ve got to keep banging in the goals.
“I need to make sure I stay in the manager’s plans, and if I’ve done that come summer we’ll see.”
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