England’s new pair of forwards Jamie Vardy and Charlie Austin conceded they have spent most of their careers with little belief they would represent their country but want to make the most of their opportunity now.
Austin and Vardy were two of three uncapped players picked in Roy Hodgson’s squad for Sunday’s friendly against the Republic of Ireland and their Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia on June 14, with Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton also included.
For QPR striker Austin, the selection was less surprising – the 25-year-old had been picked in a squad in May – but for Vardy, Hodgson’s call-up was “never, ever on the cards” less than a year ago.
“When I watched the World Cup it was completely distant,” Vardy said on Thursday.
“It was never, ever on the cards at all but now I’ve got this opportunity I want to go out and prove I’m worth it.”
Vardy earned selection after producing four goals and four assists in Leicester’s last 10 matches of the 2014-15 season to help them stay in the Premier League.
The 28-year-old only managed one more goal and six additional assists in his other 24 league appearances.
Vardy scored and set up four more goals in Leicester’s shock 5-3 win away to Manchester United in September and “then went missing for about four months”.
Austin was much more consistent, finishing the season with 18 goals and seven assists for relegated QPR – only behind Sergio Aguero (26), Harry Kane (21) and Diego Costa (20) in the Premier League scoring charts.
Both players were still playing non-league football as recently as 2009, with Austin simply wanting “to get a mention in the Bournemouth Echo”, but now he has the chance to make a few fans of his former club Poole Town very happy.
In 2010, after Austin had joined Swindon Town, 16 Poole fans put together £155 for a 50-1 bet that the young striker would score for England one day.
“When they placed the bet I said to them: ‘Look, I think you’re mad,'” he said.
With just two other strikers – Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott – in England’s squad, suddenly those fans look to be on a sure thing.