Chris Waddle believes that Yorkshire sensation Jamie Vardy may have to settle for a place on the bench – in his first experience of tournament football with England.
The Sheffielder heads to France justifyably basking in the glow of a dream domestic season with Leicester City, crowned by lifting the Premier League title with the Foxes and highs have also arrived on the international front by way of successive goals in internationals against Germany, Holland and Turkey.
Despite that feat, Waddle feels that Vardy’s most potent weapon of explosive pace and finishing ability will be best employed from the bench by Roy Hodgson during England’s Euro 2016 odyssey.
More especially in the group stages when Waddle expects Group B rivals Russia, Wales and Slovakia to play a cagey game against the English.
The former England winger – speaking this week at The Three Lions pub as part of Carlsberg’s ‘Pubstitutions’ campaign – said: “Vardy will be good if we are winning and teams are pushing on. That’s his strength, he’s good at spinning and getting in behind.
“But if teams are sitting deep and the majority of them will in the group stage, I think he will find it hard to get any joy. His strength is his pace.
“He will be an addition if England are winning rather than losing, for me.”
Based in Sheffield, Waddle remembers Vardy when he was plying his trade in non-league circles and is the first to acknowledge that his rise has been Boy’s Own stuff, with those credentials which earned him success down the footballing ladder now serving him well right at the top – albeit with a touch of fine-tuning.
Waddle added: “I remember him playing at Stocksbridge and then going to Halifax and it’s a great story.
“He went to Fleetwood and Leicester and he has played to his strengths. He has never been one to say he will come off and link the play and dribble past three guys. He gets it, gives it and spins around and he is a pest and plays to his abilities and that is why he has done well.
“There are not many players now who run in behind and I am a great believer that players should.
“But when teams have defended deep, he has found it a bit harder.
“I can’t see Russia, Wales and Slovakia coming out and they will think if they can get a draw against England that they feel they are comfortable to beat the other teams.”
England may head to France on the back of successive friendly wins against Turkey, Australia and Portugal, but do so with more questions than answers, as seasoned England observer Waddle acknowledges.
First question on the list for many is this: ‘How do you solve a problem like Wayne Rooney, or more pertinently, where do you play him?’.
Issues also infiltrate other areas across the pitch, with not too many able to say with confidence what England’s line-up will be when they take on Russia at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome next Saturday, a place Waddle knows well from his golden association with L’OM in the late eighties and early nineties.
Waddle, part of the BBC’s radio team in France, said: “There’s a lot of question marks.
“Where do you play Wayne Rooney for instance as Delle Ali has a claim to that ‘ten’ spot now? There’s a lot of things, who are going to be the two full-backs and three in midfield?
“If Roy knows his team and what he is going to go with – fine. But I was at the Australia game and we looked very disjointed and the possession on the ball was terrible.
“Advocating the use of two holding midfielders to protect what many perceive to be a flaky back four, Waddle commented: “With the way we play, our weakness is the back four and where we play one player in there in (Eric) Dier, we might have to play two holding. It’s late now, but I would have been interested to see Dier play in there with Stones.
“Roy likes (Jack) Wilshere and I think he will play. Then there’s (Jordan) Henderson and do you put Rooney on the right or left? Where does Ali fit in.”
While there were few major surprises in Roy Hodgson’s 23-man squad announcement on Tuesday, Waddle believes that the likes of Andros Townsend and Danny Drinkwater – both jettisoned from the provisional squad despite having their backers – can count themselves unfortunate.
What the ex-Sheffield Wednesday winger is unequivocal about is that teenage bolter Marcus Rashford fully merited his place in the squad after gatecrashing Hodgson’s plans at the tail end of the season – and believes that the coltish Manchester United striker will represent a wild card.
Waddle said: “Once Rashford got into the squad, he had to go.
“I was at the game at Sunderland and he settled well and scored very early. He looked as if he’d been around for a while and looked after the ball well. He’s a good player and has a presence with a good football brain on him and he can obviously score goals, which is what you need.
“He has nothing to lose or fear and can just play his game.
“In terms of the squad announcement, there will have been a lot who will have had the towel out cleaning their brow as there were a lot of people sweating on decisions.
“I think Andros Townsend is unlucky as he has played well at Newcastle and scored goals and created chances. He is the only natural winger we have really got. He will be disappointed. Danny Drinkwater was an easier one in a way as he had never really been involved all season and was brought in at the end and always up against it – but he had a claim as he had played every week and Wilshere and Henderson hadn’t. I think they all had arguments.
“The only way you will find out if the squad is right is if England get to the tournament and progress to the quarters. Then we will say Roy has got it right.”
* Chris Waddle met England fans at The Three Lions pub in Bradford as part of Carlsberg’s ‘Pubstitutions’ campaign. Carlsberg will be substituting pub names and renaming them ‘The Three Lions’ across England in the build-up to UEFA EURO 2016™