A somewhat clear eyed examination of Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy
By Kevin Alexander | Illustration by Eamonn Donnelly
[I]f Jamie Vardy’s life is a movie, this is either the part at the end in which he achieves his wildest dreams against all odds then tongue kisses Keira Knightley as the credits roll, or the part in the middle where everything is going amazingly well during a quick-cut dream sequence montage, before he wakes up to find he’s back in his old bedroom in Stocksbridge, late for an away match against Belper Town, a poster of German International Robert Huth on his wall.
Every EPL season needs a feel-good narrative for the media and fans and creative directors at top-tier advertising firms with athletic shoe accounts to get behind, and Leicester City and Vardy (and to a lesser but equally important extent, German International Robert Huth) are just that. I spent the last couple of hours reading every recent English column about Vardy, and things might be surpassing 2013 Rickie Lambert grocery stock-boy to England striker levels of hype. Most of the columns are based around this (rhetorical, in their case) question: isn’t it good to see a working class English player dominating in a league overrun with poncey foreigners?!? The underlying skills-based narrative implies that Vardy’s season of dreams is due to the fact that he just works harder than everyone else. And while there are elements of truth there — he is tenacious and unrelenting — the problem with that thesis is that it doesn’t give Vardy the player enough credit. Because he’s really fucking good.
Things might be surpassing 2013 Rickie Lambert grocery stock-boy to England striker levels of hype
Naturally, whenever someone is being bandwagon-ed as hard as Vardy, you have to step back for a second and assess, but I watched all his goals from this magical run multiple times, and what strikes me is just how different each one is. He’s scored on long balls where he’s just flat out scorched defenders and finished on the run from exceedingly difficult, even with a protractor-type angles. He’s scored twice on headers, and two different kinds too — a sublime flick off a free kick, and a punishing smash off a cross. His positioning and ability to get in front of defenders has helped him draw two penalty kicks (Norwich City and Bournemouth), but the one at Bournemouth stands out for the way he absolutely chops up the defender before getting taken down in the box.
He has scored on give-and-go’s and sniper-ed balls into the side netting off deflections. He has flicked the ball over the keeper and then shielded away a defender in time to roof it into the open net. He has scored on Southampton in the 66th and 90th minutes when we were up two goals just to ruin my Saturday. And, perhaps most importantly, he has two scoring celebrations: one in which he runs to the corner, pumps his fist and spreads his arms out wide, and the other in which he counts his goals. A feat that, very soon, could be difficult for anyone who is not the six-fingered man who killed Inigo Montoya’s father.
When called up to Prince Charming’s ball, he knows exactly what to do
Vardy’s mix of skills evokes Cinderella. His blue-collar background making medical splints and, just three years ago, playing in an amateur division, combined with his work rate and relentlessness gives him street cred with the fans, and that rags-to-riches quality all journalists love (this is the part where Cinderella acts like a scullery maid). But when called up to the EPL (aka Prince Charming’s ball), he knows exactly what to do. That’s the false perception of Vardy: his work rate and pace are both remarkable but he has had the finishing skills and deft touch all along to compete with anyone. It’s like how people forget that Cinderella was actually the one who owned the estate, and just had a really crappy familial situation.
Of course, unless his Fairy Godmother is some combination of Alan Shearer and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, at some point Vardy will stop scoring. And — if you play the odds — Leicester will go through a dark stage of their own and dip out of Champions League contention, sentenced to a place in the upper middle of comfortable obscurity, right next to my friends at St. Mary’s.
But for now, let’s just sit back in our BarcaLoungers with a box of Malteasers, and see where Vardy’s movie ends. Odds are, either way, he’s already got plans for a sequel.
Kevin Alexander sometimes forgets his EPL column is bi-monthly because his Fairy Godmother is going through a painful divorce. Follow him to Gregorian calendar skills team building classes @KAlexander. Eamonn Donnelly is on Twitter and Instagram.