CAN everyone pack it in with the snide, sneering comments about Jamie Vardy not being good enough to play for England? The Leicester striker has worked harder than anybody in Roy Hodgson’s squad to pull on that famous shirt. Nobody appreciates it more.
But instead of celebrating his rise, pundits and hacks have lined up to dismiss the 28-year-old as a one-trick pony who offers only persistence and perspiration.
Which is nothing but a load of lazy snobbery. What they’re really thinking is that a lad who worked in a factory and spent half his life in Non-League has no place amongst the game’s blue bloods.
That graduating from a top-flight academy and being a millionaire by 18 magically bestows a level of talent that unwashed oiks like Vardy can only dream of.
For some reason, the English are wedded to the idea that a player is born brilliant; you’ve either got it, or you ain’t. Newspapers, managers, fans on message boards – everyone peddles this weird, retrorade claptrap.
And if you once played for Stocksbridge Park Steels and weren’t spotted by 24, well – you obviously ain’t got it.
What utter garbage. Roger Federer spent thousands of hours honing that silk and steel forehand. Muhammad Ali sparred until his arms seized up. David Beckham was regularly the last man left at Carrington. None of them were born brilliant. All of them worked to improve.
Vardy has improved too, and spectacularly. A Conference player three-and-a-half years ago, he is now the top scorer in the Premier League, not to mention its fastest player. He can finish too – just look at the technique behind his two goals against Arsenal.
So why the sneers? Well, while we all purport to love a Roy of the Rovers story, in reality most of us are a bunch of NIMBYS inherently biased against lower league players.
Sign an exotically named foreigner or promote a youngster and we speak of potential in hushed tones, forgiving every error or duff touch.
But when that Sky Sports ticker apologetically announces the arrival of a bloke from League One, we moan about a lack of ambition and expect miracles from day one.
Karl Robinson called it right when I went to see him earlier this year. “You get pigeonholed as a ‘lower league player’,” said the MK Dons boss.
“If somebody had scored the goals Charlie Austin scored in the Spanish Segunda, he’d have been bought by a top-five club in La Liga. If he then went up and scored goals like he has for QPR (last) season, he’d be going to a big, big, club.
“But because he’s British and he’s come through the lower leagues, he doesn’t get the respect he deserves. It’s hugely frustrating.
“For me, the media have a lot to answer for. They don’t want to market British talent. They prefer to jump all over fancy exotic names.”
It’s why, when Luis Suarez or Alexis Sanchez hustle and harry and chase every lost cause, they’re world-class. When Vardy does it, he’s a one-dimensional trier.
When Wayne Rooney misplaces a pass or takes a heavy touch, he’s having a bad day at the office. When Vardy does it, his technique is a bit, you know, lower league.
When Harry Kane misses the target, he’s still learning. When Vardy does it, he’s been found wanting at international level.
You can’t have your cake and eat it. How often have we heard the moans about pampered prima donnas who don’t care about playing for England?
Yet now, when a lad comes along willing to crawl over hot coals for a cap, we mock his humble beginnings and lambast his ability.
Like Robinson, I’m sick of seeing lower league players treated like second-class citizens and forced to prove themselves like a state school kid at a Cambridge college. Sick of hearing pundits write off a player before he’s even pulled on an England shirt.
Vardy is a quality player whose performances for Leicester merit a crack at England. Those writing him off are merely prejudiced snobs. I hope he proves them wrong.