Jamie Vardy says he is ‘constantly pinching himself’ as the Sheffield-born Leicester City striker prepares to hopefully make his England debut against the Republic of Ireland in Dublinon Sunday.
Having been rejected by Sheffield Wednesday as a youth player, Vardy has risen from Stocksbridge Park Steels to Leicester via Halifax and Fleetwood - a club he had just helped achieve promotion from the Conference when Roy Hodgson took the reins as England manager in May 2012.
“I didn’t imagine this at all, but to be honest when I was at Fleetwood I wouldn’t imagine I would sign for Leicester either,” the 28-year-old said at St George’s Park.
“Every day I have had to pinch myself about where I’ve come from to where I am now.
“This is just the next step and it is even bigger, so I am constantly pinching myself.”
Fleetwood clearly believed, given they included a clause relating to international call-ups when he moved to Leicester. And Vardy, who has earned rave reviews for his Premier League performances this season, is determined to capitalise on a position he never imagined being in.
“It is a massive opportunity,” he said. “I never thought it would happen.
“I have just got to take it in my stride, show what I can do and if there is anything I need to learn then I will be learning it off the other players.
“I will be giving my all,” he added. “I want to show exactly what I can do, hopefully it is enough that I get brought into the squad next time as well.
“In my eyes it is unbelievable what happened. Obviously I didn’t expect it but it has happened and it has capped off a great season.”
Vardy’s step up is akin to Charlie Austin’s - the QPR striker plying his trade as a bricklayer six years ago while playing for Wessex League part-timers Poole Town
“My dreams are coming true,” Austin said. “Hard work is always the goal for people.
“People from the lower leagues are still dreaming they can make the step up to play professionally and then play for the national team.
“To be called up to the squad, I believe that people below us are looking at me and Jamie and see that it can be done.”
I want to show exactly what I can do, hopefully it is enough that I get brought into the squad again next timeJamie Vardy
On Vardy, Austin added: “Me and Jamie coming here gives people the opportunity if they work as hard as they can and achieve their dreams.”