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Why Jamie Vardy must start for England at this summer’s World Cup

The Leicester man is England’s best hope in Russia. Mark it down.

England v Italy - International Friendly Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

You might recall a famous headline in the Mirror in 2015 proclaiming “Jamie Vardy is not good enough to play for England.” I remember, and I’d be anything that Vardy remembers it as well. It’s a testament to how far the former Fleetwood Town man has come that there’s no question that he’ll be part of Gareth Southgate’s squad heading to Russia this summer. The question is no longer “Is he good enough for England?”

Vardy should be in the starting XI.

England v Italy - International Friendly Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

I can hear the criticism now. “You’re mad! How can you support Vardy over Harry Kane?” It’s a fair question, but I ask that you withhold judgement and let me explain. Then you can judge me.

In case you missed it, Vardy got his 7th international goal this evening against Italy, giving him more goals in this match than he had touches in the previous one.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: Kane has scored 12 goals in 23 matches, a more impressive mark than Vardy’s 7 in 21. However, there’s more to the story. The Leicester man has only started 11 of those 21 matches, whereas Kane has started 18 of his 23. I’ll spare you the math, but Vardy scores a goal for England every 158 minutes; Kane every 136 minutes. Advantage Kane, but not an overwhelming one.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Even though the Azzurri didn’t qualify for the World Cup this time around, they remain unquestionably a top side. That made me wonder: If Vardy is especially deadly against the Big 6 in the Premier League, is he also more prolific against top competition in international play? I’ll let you be the judge. His goals have come against:

  • Germany
  • Netherlands
  • Turkey
  • Wales
  • Spain
  • Lithuania
  • Italy

Remember that goal against Germany? Pepperidge Farm remembers.

He’s not getting cheap goals against the weaker sides; he’s scored 4 of his 7 against absolutely top nations. Kane’s record in this regard isn’t quite as impressive. He’s scored two top sides, France and Germany, but the rest were against nations which aren’t regarded as traditional powerhouses.

This probably reads like I’m bashing Harry Kane and that’s not the case at all. He’s an fine footballer who will probably win the Premier League some day. If I’m the England manager, I’m finding some way to get them on the pitch at the same time (without sticking Vardy on the left wing).

But, if Southgate can play only one of them and England are facing a top side in a big match? Vardy has to be the first name on the team sheet.