Alan Pardew has revealed his admiration for Jamie Vardy’s rise from non-league football to the England team and spoken of the difficulties the Leicester forward will have encountered.
Similarly to Vardy, Pardew reached the peak of his playing career, with Crystal Palace, at a later stage than most professionals having spent much of it until then playing non-league.
Despite nine goals in nine Premier League games so far this season and becoming a regular feature of Roy Hodgson’s England squad, many are yet to be convinced by Vardy’s qualities at the highest level and Pardew is aware of how difficult that struggle for recognition can be.
“The first battle you need to win is players accepting you from non-league,” said Pardew, whose team on Saturday visit Leicester in the Premier League. “When you’re coming in, in your mid-20s, to professional footballers, they kind of look and you and say ‘You’ve got enough to prove to us first’.
“When you’ve done that battle everything else is a challenge, to try and put yourself up against the best players in your position. Vardy is doing it against centre-halves and in my day it was doing it against Bryan Robson and Gazza (Paul Gascoigne). It lifted me to try and play with those guys. Three or four years before I was a million miles away from that.
“That’s why Vardy has that drive in him. Sometimes it’s a good route for a footballer. You see so many young footballers burst on the scene and when they reach 25, for some reason the motivational levels go off. We’ve seen that many times. Having that non-league history, being in the workplace, you realise how lucky and special playing professional football is, particularly in the Premier League.”
The subject of the development of young English footballers remains a central theme surrounding the Premier League given that so few chances are given and so many promising careers go to waste.
Pardew is presently reviving the career of Wilfried Zaha following his failed transfer to Manchester United and he believes that, in some instances, the less traditional path beginning among the lower divisions may be preferable to that at the favoured, luxurious Premier League academies.
“I think sometimes it can be if I am honest,” he said. “There can be certain pampering we are doing in the academies through our groups that soften players, I do believe that. There is no chance of that in the non-league.
“The key for (Vardy) now is to try and get that consistency for the next three, four years. He has had a big year but it is only his first year and he has to back it up now.
“Roy (Hodgson) should also take a lot of credit for where Vardy is because it does come hand in hand. Selection is sometimes too early for a player, or he’s not right, and it knocks them back. With Vardy, he’s just picked it up and run with it and for Roy and the player they’ve both had great success with it.”