— Jamie Vardy (@vardy7) May 2, 2016
One simple Tweet, but enough to communicate 1,000 words. Leicester City are Premier League Champions, and not even Harry Kane and his Tottenham teammates could stop them. From one emerging Premier League striking sensation to another, and lest we forget two who will be teammates come the European Championships in June, a simple rebuff to a similarly visual Tweet posted a fortnight ago containing a herd of prowling lions. Yet could this Premier League and English striking rivalry now be hitting new heights, and potentially derail England’s assault on the European Championship Finals this summer?
— Leicester Mercury (@Leicester_Merc) May 3, 2016
A tale of two very different careers
With 25 goals, Harry Kane currently sits astride the Premier League goalscoring charts. With only two games to go, the Spurs striker is two ahead of Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, and could well be on course to secure an award he missed out on last season to the same rival. Yet a further goal back sits Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, a man fresh from his club’s miraculous achievement of claiming their first English top-flight title – and only the sixth club to claim the Barclays Premier League. Yet their paths to this juncture in their careers could have been more different. While Kane has been on the books at Tottenham Hotspur since joining as a fresh-faced fifteen-year-old, Vardy’s is a tale of treading the boards of lower-league football well into his twenties – a road not often followed by many established Premier League players, let alone bona fide stars. Both players represent tales of hard work and dedication which has resulted in the fruits of success which, for Vardy in particular, have manifested in spectacular fashion.
This may not seem like an instantly recognisable period in the annals of English football, but a closer look reveals events that were to have a significant impact on the 2015-16 Premier league season. On Saturday 14th April, in London, at Millwall’s New Den, an 18-year-old Harry Kane netted twice in a match against Leicester City in the Championship – the second tier of English football. Kane had only joined Millwall on loan in late December, and would go on to score nine goals in 27 appearances – hardly hinting at what was to come. The night before, at Highbury Stadium, Fleetwood, a 25-year old Jamie Vardy scored a brace in the Conference National League against Lincoln City. They were to be the 24th and 25th goals of a season which would see Vardy and Fleetwood promoted to the English Football League for the first time. Despite being 7 years in age and three divisions apart, two developing careers were further forged that day.
Fast forward to the 2012-13 season, and the East Midlands. Still in the Football league Championship, Harry Kane, once again a loanee from parent club Tottenham, found himself at the King Power stadium in February, and sharing a changing room with the likes of Kasper Schmeichel, Wes Morgan, Danny Drinkwater, and one Jamie Vardy, who had joined the Foxes at the start of the campaign after his starring season with Fleetwood in 2011-12. Leicester were to be the fourth and final club the young Kane would represent during his formative years, and once again the forward failed to set the world alight, this time scoring only 2 goals in 15 appearances. It was to be a similar tale for Vardy, who himself bagged only 5 goals in 29 appearances. That is English football’s two hottest strikers playing together and scoring a combined 7 goals in 44 matches. If only the Foxes’ fans knew what they know now…
The 2015-16 Season
Even at the beginning of this miraculous season, there was nothing much to hint at the rivalry which would build between the two Englishman. Harry Kane came into the campaign fresh from a breakout 2014-15 in which he scored 21 goals in the Premier League, finishing behind only Sergio Aguero in the scoring charts. His England debut came and went with another goal, and Kane topped off his season with the Young Player of the Year award – a stellar effort from the striker. Vardy, meanwhile, did not match his old teammate’s performances, notching only five goals in 34 appearances in a season which saw the Foxes narrowly void relegation back to the Championship. At the start of the current campaign, with a new coach in place, Leicester City’s survival in the Premier League was doubted by many, and Vardy’s place in the tram was far from guaranteed. Yet an explosive run from August to November when Vardy broke Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s Premier League record by scoring in 11 consecutive games in the English top flight was the catalyst for the unlikeliest of titles. Kane, meanwhile, stands every chance of finishing the campaign as the league’s leading marksman, with only two games to go, as his Spurs team fell short of taking the title from Vardy’s Leicester.
A rivalry between two players challenging for domestic honours is a common enough occurrence, but where Vardy and Kane’s relationship may become a focus is within the ranks of the English national team – both players are expected to be key players for Roy Hodgson as England plot an assault on the European Championship Finals, to commence in France in June. While Hodgson will be delighted to find two English strikers in such a rich vein of form and enjoying success at domestic level, he will be keen to avoid any disharmony in his squad. Both players have proven key in recent matches, with Vardy scoring in his last two turnouts for the national side, and Kane now boasting 4 goals in his ten international appearances. Both were on the scoresheet in a memorable performance in Germany back in March.
It could be worse
Yet if Roy Hodgson thinks he could have a potential problem on his hands, he should spare a thought for his Ukrainian counterpart, Mykhaylo Fomenko, who faces the very real prospect of a feud engulfing his team’s preparations for France. The problems began on Sunday when Dynamo Kiev’s Andriy Yarmolenko kicked national team colleague Taras Stepanenko after the Shakhtar Donetsk player kissed his badge and celebrated in front of Dynamo Kiev fans during his side’s 3-0 win. Yarmolenko’s actions started an ugly on-pitch brawl which resulted in both players being red-carded, and two further players also being given their marching orders. After the game, Yarmolenko was unequivocal in his views.
“My friendship with Yarmolenko is over.”
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) May 2, 2016
Fomenko has done his best to diffuse the row between the pair, stating “We have to sort this out so it does not affect our mission.” Hodgson beware!
Selected Euro 2016 Top Goalscorers
Cristiano Ronaldo – 8.00
Thomas Muller – 8.00
Antoine Griezmann – 9.00
Harry Kane – 13.00
Jamie Vardy 41.00
All odds courtesy of bet365 and correct as of 14.00 GMT on Wednesday 5th May
By: Steven Paget