FIVE years after turning out for Stocksbridge Park Steels in the Northern Premier League and four since leaving FC Halifax Town, Jamie Vardy is on the verge of an England debut.
Named in the senior squad to face the Republic of Ireland and Slovenia next month along with fellow former non-League striker Charlie Austin, the 27-year-old –rejected by Sheffield Wednesday at 16 – has enjoyed an incredible rise, but manager Roy Hodgson insists the Leicester City man is in on merit.
“I watched him when he was still at Fleetwood,” said the Three Lions’ chief, “and players who have that pace and desire to run in behind defenders are always interesting for coaches.
“His latter part of the season with Leicester through the ‘great escape’ has been really excellent.”
Vardy has the unique distinction of having netted against both FC United of Manchester and Manchester United during a career that saw him take a break for a year following his release by the Owls.
He moved from Stocksbridge to Halifax for around £20,000 in May, 2010, and then went on to net 28 goals in 41 games for the Shaymen before joining Fleetwood ahead of the 2001-12 season.
Hodgson, meanwhile, also named uncapped Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton for the friendly against the Republic of Ireland on June 7 and the Euro 2016 qualifier in Slovenia four days later.
With the likes of Harry Kane, Danny Ings and Saido Berahino all set to feature for the Under-21s at the European Championships this summer, Hodgson has taken the chance to have a look at some players who had been in his thinking over the course of the season.
Hodgson has also included Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck and Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney despite both missing games through injury recently.
England squad to face the Republic of Ireland on June 7 and Slovenia on June 14:
Green (QPR), Hart (Man City), Heaton (Burnley); Bertrand (Southampton), Cahill (Chelsea), Clyne (Southampton), Gibbs (Arsenal), Jagielka (Everton), Jones (Man Utd), Smalling (Man Utd); Barkley (Everton), Delph (Aston Villa), Henderson (Liverpool), Lallana (Liverpool), Mason (Tottenham), Milner (Man City), Sterling (Liverpool), Townsend (Tottenham), Walcott (Arsenal), Wilshere (Arsenal); Charlie Austin (QPR), Rooney (Man Utd), Vardy (Leicester), Welbeck (Arsenal).