Jamie Vardy ‘still pinching himself’ after England debut

Jamie Vardy replaces Wayne Rooney to win his first England cap
Jamie Vardy replaces Wayne Rooney to win his first England cap
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Jamie Vardy’s England debut will live long in the memory, having gone from non-league to replacing Wayne Rooney in just three years.

Released by boyhood club Sheffield Wednesday, the forward worked as a carbon fibre technician, making splints for disabled people with drop-foot, and playing part-time for Stocksbridge Park Steels.

Vardy moved on to Halifax and Fleetwood, with his goalscoring form helping Town achieve promotion from the Conference in 2012.

It also saw the forward secure a £1million move to Leicester, where his rise has continued apace to the point that he came on for his England debut 75 minutes into Sunday’s friendly against the Republic of Ireland.

“I will be pinching myself later when I get home,” Vardy said. “I was obviously over the moon that I had been selected to come on and as Wayne was coming off he said ‘good luck, just do what you do’.

“It was a brilliant feeling but I need to take that into training now and hopefully I will be involved next week as well.

“It was a mixture of everything emotionally, but as soon as you take that step over the line that’s when you have to get your professional head on and try to do the job.”

Replacing the England captain at the impressive Aviva Stadium is a far cry from his first away trip with Stocksbridge Park Steels.

“I remember the first time I was on the bench for Stocksbridge,” Vardy said. “It was Cammell Laird away, down on Liverpool docks.

“A few of the locals put the coach windows through. I couldn’t tell you what with, we just got back to the coach and the windows were gone through.”

Fortunately, there were no such incidents before or after Sunday’s high-profile friendly, which marked England’s first return to Ireland since the disgraceful scenes of 20 years ago.

However, it was not just in the stands that things were incident free as the match ended in a tepid goalless draw.

“I think it was a bit cagey to start with and that’s probably how most of these games are going to go when you’re playing another one of the home nations,” Vardy said. “But it is another clean sheet, still unbeaten from the World Cup, so there’s positives to come.

“You want to get the result right first and unfortunately we didn’t get the victory that we wanted, but it still kept us unbeaten.”

Vardy’s debut was watched by his fiance and her friend in Dublin, where the players all signed his match shirt afterwards.

The dressing room also saw a number of them reminisce about their first England appearance, with James Milner and Jack Wilshere amongst those recalling their debuts.

“There’s no chance that anyone who makes their debut would be able to forget it,” Vardy said.

“A couple of the lads afterwards were talking about their debuts in the shower. They had their debuts 10 years ago and still remember it as if it were yesterday.”

The last thing Vardy wants now, though, is to be bracketed as a ‘one-cap wonder’.

The Leicester forward hopes to have done enough to impress manager Roy Hodgson and his staff, pledging to work even harder ahead of next weekend’s Euro 2016 qualifier in Slovenia.

“I hope (I have done enough to impress) and if not then I’ll be trying extra hard this week to make sure that I have,” Vardy said.

“The environment is brilliant, to be honest with you. The lads have really made me feel welcome, help me settle in, and that’s all you can ask for.”