THEIR careers may have veered off in vastly different directions, but Danny Care and Jamie Vardy are both hoping to finish with the same endgame of glory.
England scrum-half Care will look to guide his country home to a first grand slam since 2003 when he takes to the field in Paris tonight but, beforehand, may have had a little fleeting look to see how Leicester City have fared this afternoon, too.
That is because, as a teenager initially dreaming of football stardom, he was in the same Sheffield Wednesday junior side as Vardy, the prolific striker who has helped put the Foxes on an unlikely course for the Premier League title in one of football’s most remarkable tales.
Vardy, who hails from the Steel City, has done it the hard way given he was still playing for non-league FC Halifax Town just five years ago yet is now an England international whose pace and alacrity has caused sheer panic for some of the world’s best defenders.
Recalling their time together at Hillsborough, Care admitted: “Jamie was a similar kid to how he plays now; he was aggressive and liked to have the ball.
“We both played on the wing or up front and it’s unbelievable to see how well he’s done.
“It’s amazing and richly deserved. Back then, I probably didn’t think he’d get this far and he’d probably admit the same thing as well. But sport’s a funny thing. He got opportunities and stuck with it and now he’s one of the hottest properties in football.
“It’s brilliant to see and good on him.
“We’ve spoken a little bit recently and now every interview people want to speak about him after I Tweeted a pic of us at Wednesday. It’s quite funny!”
With unfashionable Leicester – they were fighting to avoid relegation last season – currently five points clear at the top of the Premier League and the end in sight, former Leeds Tykes star Care, 29, concedes it would be “nice” if they could complete the job and England reign in France this evening, too.
“Obviously Leicester are flying and it’s an unbelievable story,” added Care. “They deserve everything they’re getting at the moment. I think they’ve done enough. Well, they will have in the next few weeks.
“For us to win a grand slam would obviously be massive as well. No-one has done it in this squad and it hasn’t been done for a long time. A handful of us have won a Six Nations but this is the one we really want.”
To do so, England coach Eddie Jones has plumped for Care as his No9, reverting fierce rival Ben Youngs to the bench after three successive starts. Harlequins player Care had started the Six Nations – and Australian Jones’s first game in charge – as first-choice in the win at Scotland so was he surprised to be demoted?
“You don’t know with a new coach,” he said.
“He wanted to see a few players play and after the first game my feedback was that he thought I had played well but he wanted to see Ben play and see me off the bench. There are only two of us scrum-halves in the squad and my respect for Ben is huge.
“I know how good a player he is and that he wanted him for the last three games so it is up to me to come in and do my thing for the team this weekend and hopefully we go there and get a win.
“It’s great to be back in that starting team.”
Care was part of the England squad that missed out on grand slams in Ireland in 2011 and again in Cardiff two years later. There were doubts from onlookers about their ability to see things through on both those occasions but this time, most people expect them to prosper. Care, meanwhile, has been given his orders.
“We want to play quickly; we want to play a fast-paced game and that is maybe why he has given me the shout,” he said.
“We will not play too dissimilarly to how we have played throughout the whole tournament and hopefully put in a full 80 minute performance which we haven’t done yet.”