England’s Jamie Vardy knows his standards need to be high if his dream journey from non-league to the World Cup is to become a reality.
The 30-year-old’s fairy-tale ascent is well-documented, having rapidly gone from spearheading Stocksbridge Park Steels to Leicester’s remarkable Premier League triumph.
Vardy’s performances have led him to become an England regular, scoring six goals in 17 appearances and earning a place in the Euro 2016 squad.
The Sheffield-born forward is now hoping to add a World Cup chapter to his remarkable story, but knows he has to be performing well after seeing Gareth Southgate cut regulars struggling for minutes and form.
“It’s massive,” Vardy said of the prospect of going to Russia.
“I know first and foremost I’ve got to be doing well for my club to be within a chance of being selected.
“First and foremost I’ve got to put in all my effort for Leicester when I am obviously not on international breaks and hopefully my performances will make me warrant that place.
“I think (my form this season) started off alright and kind of slowed a bit, but all-in-all I think it has gone OK.”
Vardy is well aware of the competition he faces for an attacking berth with England, although this week he has a chance to underline his credentials given the number of absentees.
Southgate’s injury-hit side end 2017 with a friendly against Brazil next Tuesday, just days after welcoming Germany to Wembley.
Friday’s match brings back fond memories as the former Sheffield Wednesday youngster’s first international goal came in the memorable 3-2 win in the world champions’ backyard in March 2016.
“I just remember we broke on Germany and it ended up with Nathaniel Clyne, who was bombing down from right-back, all the way up to the complete opposite end of the field,” Vardy said in radio interviews with BBC Radio 5 Live and talkSPORT.
“He crossed it just behind me and I just flicked a leg out hoping to get a connection and I think I got the sweetest connection I could have ever wished for and it flew in, luckily.
“I think you can say it is definitely up there (with the best English displays I’ve been involved in). Although it was a friendly, it showed what we’re about.
“Obviously 2-0 down to come back and win 3-2 on their home soil as well just showed what the boys can do and what we can achieve against the tough opponents.
“I think that’s one of the main reasons why we’ve got the games coming up against the best that there is so that we can try and test ourselves.”
Vardy played against Germany once more in March as England suffered a narrow 1-0 loss, helping to form part of an exciting attacking line-up as Southgate dabbled with a three-man backline – a system that now appears here to stay.
“I think for us we need to just take it game for game,” the forward added. “We don’t want to be getting too carried away with yourselves and get too far ahead.
“We just need to try and get the consistency going with the run of I think six games before the World Cup itself starts.
“So if we can get some decent results and get the consistency going and take that consistency into Russia then that’ll definitely be an added bonus.”
Eric Dier believes Southgate’s ruthless selection for England’s prestige friendlies will help guard against complacency.
Southgate axed squad regulars Daniel Sturridge, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jermain Defoe and Chris Smalling for the glamorous double header, continued to overlook Jack Wilshere and trimmed peripheral figures including Fraser Forster and Aaron Cresswell.
The manager had indicated ahead of October’s World Cup qualifiers that injuries left him selecting players who were fortunate to get the call and there can be no doubt now that he is serious.
Tottenham midfielder Dier backed Southgate’s decision and thinks it will keep the nation’s best players hungry.
“It is the way it has to be,” he said. “Playing for your country is the pinnacle of football.
“It is what you all want to do and it has to be special. I think that it’s essential, you cannot just think you will be in very squad because you have done ‘X and X’ in previous years. It has to be constant.
“You always have to be on your toes to get the call-up otherwise you can become complacent and I don’t think that is a good thing.”
Dier, having survived the mini cull, can now look forward to appearing against two of the game’s super powers at Wembley.
The sides are currently ranked one and two in the world by FIFA, Friday’s opponents Germany taking top spot, and will provide a clearer barometer of where England are than recent opponents Slovenia and Lithuania.
Asked by one reporter about the dangers of being “embarrassed” by the pair, Dier merely welcomed the test.
“I don’t really see it as a risk. If we get embarrassed then there is a lot more to work on,” he said. “If we don’t, we are on the right path.
“If we want to be prepared for one of the biggest sporting events in the world we have to prepare by facing the best.
“The manager has already said that if we are to be playing friendlies, he wants to be playing against the best nations in the world and to challenge ourselves.”