Unconventional Vardy like a breath of fresh air

PARIS • The rags to considerable riches story of Jamie Vardy keeps getting better and better.

Having confirmed his status as a walking fairy tale by scoring a crucial goal for England 11 minutes into his tournament debut against Wales on Thursday, an hour later the Leicester striker was cementing his position as the game's everyman, laughing and joking with journalists that the only weights he lifts are cans of Red Bull.

To borrow from the energy drink company's famous advertising slogan, something has given Vardy wings. The boy's own narrative of park player magically transformed into a Premier League winner that has seduced the Hollywood studios may be overly simplistic, but he seems a genuine throwback.

The 29-year-old was serious when claiming that he never goes to the gym, a highly unusual approach in a sport that has placed strength and conditioning at the heart of most training regimens.

Vardy contends that adding bulk by lifting weights would reduce his speed, and having gone from the wilderness of non-League football to scoring European Championship goals for England in the space of four years, he is understandably eager to make up for lost time.

His coaches at Leicester and England have allowed him to follow his own path, with the 24 Premier League goals that he scored last season providing ample evidence that his unusual preparation works.

"If I go in the gym, it will slow me down," he said. "I'm sure if someone else tried doing what I do then it probably wouldn't work for them.

"They've tried to drag me to the gym, but not succeeded. The last time I lifted a weight was probably that can of Red Bull the other day."

He contends that the pre-training can of Red Bull that he was photographed with last week does not form part of his daily regimen, although he has been known to use the nicotine Thunder pouches during club training and matches.

Both products are perfectly legal despite featuring on the World Anti-Doping Agency list of supplements to monitor, and opinion is divided among sports scientists on whether the combination of caffeine and nicotine has a performance-enhancing effect.

Despite his unusual approach, it would be wrong to dismiss Vardy as a coffee and fags man who does not take his conditioning seriously.

His body fat percentage is less than 6 per cent - lower than the 8 per cent generally required to maintain a visible six pack - and he is fastidious about maintaining the lean physique that is integral to his sharpness and speed.

Vardy's remarkable tale could contain several new chapters yet.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 19, 2016, with the headline 'Unconventional Vardy like a breath of fresh air'. Print Edition | Subscribe