LONDON • As Ruud van Nistelrooy could have told Jamie Vardy, Newcastle are welcoming hosts to goal-scorers in search of records.
Some 12 years after the Dutchman found the net in a 2-1 victory at St James' Park to register for a 10th consecutive English Premier League football game, the former non-league forward equalled that mark on Saturday.
In the process he pushed Leicester City, albeit perhaps briefly, to the top of the table following their 3-0 win. These are heady days for the Midlands side - who returned to the Premier League last season - and their highest-profile player.
The season that Stan Mortensen of Blackpool scored in a record 11 straight top-flight matches
Manchester United, for whom van Nistelrooy set the benchmark sequence during the trophy-laden reign of Alex Ferguson, will on Saturday stand in the way of Vardy's attempt to relieve the Dutchman of his place in the history books.
There will be little need for United manager Louis van Gaal to consult his Newcastle counterpart Steve McClaren for tips on how to shackle the former Stocksbridge Park Steels forward turned England international - because the Magpies were utterly clueless in their attempts to do so.
Vardy's landmark goal, scored in first-half stoppage time, could and perhaps should have sealed a hat-trick for the 28-year-old, who saw an early snapshot blocked by Aleksandar Mitrovic, before coming even closer when Rob Elliot, the Newcastle goalkeeper, diverted another goal-bound effort from a narrow angle with his legs.
A player whose rise to the top has taken in stops at the humble surrounds of Halifax and Fleetwood Town finally found the net in similar circumstances, beating Elliot at his near post with a crisp finish.
That rounded off a move he began on the left touch-line, exchanging passes with Leonardo Ulloa before poking the ball through the legs of Moussa Sissoko to bury a shot past the exposed Newcastle goalkeeper.
It was his 13th goal of the season, though van Nistelrooy, who was magnanimous enough to send his record-seeking successor a good-luck message before the game, will no doubt point out that 15 goals arrived during his perfect 10 games.
Vardy's latest appearance on the scoresheet was achieved while nursing a hip problem. Just imagine what he could have done if fully fit.
Ulloa and Shinji Okazaki also scored for Claudio Ranieri's unfashionable Leicester side.
But Ranieri reserved his highest praise for Vardy. "It is fantastic for Jamie Vardy. It is good for everybody when a team has a striker who is scoring goals, it gives you a lot of confidence," said the manager.
"You always believe something can happen when he has the ball. He is like a great champion. He came from non-league and it was very difficult for him, but now he is very confident."
Indeed, Vardy's rise from the wilderness of non-league football reads like a story from an outdated comic book.
These days, potential top-class players are spotted at the age of eight or nine by highly-trained academy scouts and nurtured through their formative years by nutritionists, sport scientists and finely tuned by development trainers and coaches.
They do not normally reach the top after being convicted of assault, placed under police curfew with an electronic tag to monitor their movements and by playing for minor league clubs.
That has been Vardy's unlikely climb to the top and he is now just one match away from equalling a scoring record set in the 1950s.
His scoring run began against Bournemouth on Aug 29 and, if he finds the net against United on Saturday, he will equal Stan Mortensen's top-flight record of scoring in 11 successive matches, which he set playing for Blackpool in 1950-51.
THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS