Former Fleetwood ace Jamie Vardy is still pinching himself at the possibility of partnering Wayne Rooney for England – just three years after leaving Highbury.
ardy’s goal glut helped Town secure Football League status - his 31 goals in 36 appearances firing Micky Mellon’s men to the Conference title
The striker was sold to Leicester City that summer, his £1m fee a non-league record, Town receiving a welcome bonus last season when the Foxes were promoted to the Premier League.
And another windfall could be on the way should the 28-year-old - a snip for Fleetwood at £150,000 when he arrived from Halifax - pull on a Three Lions shirt this weekend.
The Highbury club are understood to have included an international appearance clause in Vardy’s sale and will pocket a six-figure sum should he appear either against Ireland on Sunday or Slovenia seven days later.
Vardy, who scored four goals in Leicester’s last 10 Premier League games as the Foxes completed their unlikely escape from relegation, admits he still can scarcely believe he has been called up to Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions squad.
He said;”I’ve been pinching myself every day since the squad got mentioned and hopefully I’ll learn a lot from this trip and if I get some game time I’ll be showing exactly what I can do.”
“I’m settling in fine.
“The lads have made me feel welcome, always having little chats and I can only become a better player training with them every day.”
Vardy, a scholar at Sheffield Wednesday, took the hard way to the top - starting in non-league at Stocksbridge Park Steel before moving on to Halifax and Highbury.
His Football League debut came at the age of 25, making an England call all the more astonishing.
“It’s a massive opportunity,” he admits.
“ I never thought it would happen so I’ve got to take it in my stride, show what I can do and if there’s anything I need to learn obviously I’ll be learning off the other players.”
Vardy never represented England at age-group level and he admits the possibility of partnering Three Lions skipper Wayne Rooney was unthinkable not too long ago.
“A year ago? I don’t think it (a strike partnership with Rooney) had been said three months ago to be honest with you,” he added.
“Like I say, it will be good experience if that does happen and come match day we’ll be putting all our effort in to win that game against Ireland.”
With such a dream scenario now a real possibility, Vardy hopes his rise from non-league to international football can inspire others to follow a similar path.
And he admits having QPR forward Charlie Austin handed his first call at the same time has helped him to settle.
“I hope it does (inspire others), obviously a lot of hard work has had to go into it,” Vardy added.
“If that does show people that it can happen and make them try harder to become better players then it’s only going to benefit the country.
“I had a chat about it with Charlie Austin, a little laugh and a joke from where we’ve come from and we’ll be pinching ourselves, but it’s probably helped us both that we’ve been called up at the same time.”
Vardy’s former Fleetwood team-mate Jamie Milligan knows just what England can gain from putting Vardy into their forward line.
He said: “He was a character, definitely a character.
“But he didn’t come in big time.
“He worked for the team every single game.
“He’ll do that with England.
“He was one of those players who ran in behind. That’s rare in strikers now.
“A lot of forwards want the ball into feet, but he wants to run in behind and he occupies the centre-halves.
“When you play against Vards as a defender you know you have been in a game because he just doesn’t stop.”