By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
Gary Neville has revealed that England’s scouting reports were far from gushing with praise when Jamie Vardy first captured the national team’s attention.
Vardy has been on the radar of the England coaching team, which includes Neville, since Leicester won promotion to the Premier League last year.
But Roy Hodgson and his staff were not expecting the Leicester strike to make such an impact, which now puts him on the verge of breaking a Premier League scoring record.
Vardy has scored 13 top-flight goals this season and his strike in Leicester’s 3-0 win over Newcastle on Saturday equalled Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of a goal in 10 consecutive Premier League matches.
“It’s been an incredible rise from non-league to the Premier League but the biggest jump in some ways is the meteoric rise that has happened in the last 12 months,” England coach Neville told Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football programme.
“You have to remember that he only scored something like 20 goals in 63 appearances in the Championship so you weren’t expecting at the start of last season a striker to come into the Premier League and do what he has done.
“Twelve months ago any player that plays up front in the Premier League has to capture the eye of the England coaching team, of which I am part, and the actual reports coming through were that he was raw and a little bit erratic in front of goal but lightning quick and a handful.”
Neville believes Vardy showed signs of his potential last season, which ended with an England call-up, but has taken his game to a whole new level in the current campaign.
“He’s a completely different player,” explained Neville. “He was unpolished last season. You look at him now and he’s a fantastic finisher.
“He’s got a lot better touch than people would give him credit for, he can play in tight areas. In the next few weeks against the top defences, we will see whether he can adapt and adjust when teams show him a lot more respect than they’re doing at the moment.”