Column: Torpedo the comparisons to Vardy, Dennis needs patience not pressure
The words '˜non-league striker' had barely been uttered on Tuesday before people were tripping over themselves to question if Chesterfield's new signing is '˜the next Jamie Vardy'.
This is what Kristian Dennis, and every other player moving into the Football League from lower down the pyramid will have to contend with from now on.
We’re creatures of comparison, we love to draw parallels and intimate that we’ve seen it all before, there’s nothing new under the sun.
Of course there were no parallels for Vardy’s story, no one thought it possible because no one had seen it done before, not to that extent.
From having to work his way into the first team at Stocksbridge to lifting the Premier League trophy and pulling on an England shirt, Vardy’s story is the kind you couldn’t even dream.
Vardy is one in a million.
He might be an inspiration to every other Northern Premier League striker banging in the goals, but he hasn’t created a pathway that will allow all those other strikers to simply follow him to the very top.
And, wisely, Dennis was quick to play down the inevitable comparisons with Leicester City’s top goalscorer.
Strikers are a cocky breed, and good ones score great goals because they think everything they hit will find the net.
Even if the Spireites’ new frontman, at the age of 26, harboured hopes of reaching the summit of English football, only a madman would say it aloud.
There’s nothing wrong with ambition or dreams, but no one needs the pressure that the ‘next Jamie Vardy’ tag will create.
Chesterfield boss Danny Wilson is not one to get carried away – I haven’t heard him utter a single statement that wasn’t measured or calculated since he arrived.
There was that one press conference were he erupted in a fit of uncontrollable giggles, for a reason that wasn’t entirely clear.
But that one brilliantly entertaining moment aside, he’s been the picture of sober realism.
The only comparison he might draw between the careers of Vardy and Dennis is his belief that non-league can be a rich source of gems, unpolished diamonds waiting to be uncovered and developed into a finished article.
That’s about as far as the comparisons and parallels should go, until such a time as Dennis has been allowed to settle, adapt to a huge leap in standard and prove himself as a prolific League One striker.
Dennis’ former boss, the man who helped get his career back on track, John Flanagan, has his fingers crossed that the forward will be afforded the necessary time to get up to speed.
“Managers have to give strikers a chance, a run of games – if he gets that I’m confident he will score,” said Flanagan, who managed Dennis at both Mossley and Curzon Ashton, after he was released by Macclesfield Town.
“He’s just a goalscorer, he’s not one who will particularly create a lot of chances for other people, he gets on the end of things, he’s got a terrific left foot. He’s a great striker of the ball.
“He’s a bit like Adam le Fondre, left foot, not the biggest, not slow but not particularly quick, and doesn’t think twice about shooting.
“He’s a smashing lad, no trouble, I’m really pleased for him and I have my fingers crossed for him, I really hope he does well.”
One thing that jumps out of Flanagan’s insight to instantly torpedo the Vardy comparison is the lack of blistering pace – the weapon that Vardy uses to put Premier League defenders on the back foot.
But at times last season Chesterfield lacked that willingness to shoot on sight, and Wilson often bemoaned an inability to take chances.
Dennis, from the evidence found in a brief YouTube scouting mission, certainly isn’t shot shy.
And he doesn’t need to ‘do a Vardy’ to become a fan favourite or a success at the Proact, he’s just got to match the work ethic of Lee Novak, who endeared himself to supporters this season, and take his chances when they come.
Chesterfield Football Club’s most beloved, and most prolific frontman, the legendary Ernie Moss was summed up by boss Jim McGuigan in the following quote: “A big, willing bloke, a charming fellow who had raw potential.”
Dennis could do a lot worse than trying to replicate those qualities.
The Spireites obviously believe he’s got the raw potential and if he’s willing to work, the fans will take him to heart.
He’s made all the right noises so far, the expected lines about self belief, wanting to repay the faith shown in him, preparing to work hard to get in the right shape for pre-season.
Once the fanfare that accompanies a club’s first summer signing dies down, Dennis will have a chance to get his head down and get himself into a position to challenge for next season’s first team.
Most people around the club have their fingers and toes crossed that Novak will be one name on the team sheet, and who better for Dennis to learn from.
The experienced former Birmingham striker might provide a nice foil for the new boy as well, with his ability to hold the ball up and bring others into the play.
Novak too came from non-league and would be able to offer advice on how to stick around in the upper echelons of the game and become a top name.
Let’s hope Dennis gets to make a name for himself.