Burnley boss Sean Dyche has expressed his admiration for Jamie Vardy and the “big gamble” that took the striker to Leicester seven years ago.
Vardy joined the Foxes for a fee believed to be in the region of £1million in May 2012 after helping Fleetwood win what is now known as the National League.
The 32-year-old has gone on to score over 100 goals for Leicester, star in their unforgettable Premier League title triumph of 2015-16 and play 26 times for England.
Dyche had a year-long stint in charge at Watford – his first managerial role – finish in July 2012 before becoming Burnley boss in October.
At his press conference ahead of the Clarets’ trip to Leicester on Saturday, Dyche spoke about Vardy and Burnley forward Ashley Barnes, another player who has gone from non-league to the top flight.
Regarding the former, he said: “Leicester (who were, like Burnley and Watford, a Championship club at the time) took a big gamble. I think (then Leicester boss) Nigel Pearson paid a million quid at the time, and that is out of non-league.
“We (Watford) were in for him – but we were in for him for about two-and-a-half quid I think! We offered £2.97 and some boots, some balls and bibs at the time! No, it was a lot of money, but the risk has paid off tenfold, or however many fold.
“Let me make it clear – we were distantly in for him. Trust me, the figure never got anywhere near a moment in time that we were going to sign him, not even close.
“We were among a number of clubs who went, ‘really like that, could we achieve that?’ It was very quick, ‘no’. Because at that time the club certainly wasn’t spending a lot of money. So it was a very quick ‘no’.”
When asked what he had seen in Vardy at that point, Dyche said: “What you see now. Pace, movement, an eye for goal obviously, and there is a hardiness to his character, and I think Barnesy has got it as well.
“He has obviously polished it, but the movement, the pace and that will to score a goal, a real demand to score a goal – you can almost sense it on him.
“There were strong signs that he had a lot to offer and he has polished up accordingly, both from him himself and the varying coaching staffs and people he has worked with.
“I think it was Nigel really – Nigel signed him – or their system. Nigel worked with him and managed to start the process of him getting the best out of himself, or the coaches getting the best out of him.”
Vardy has scored five league goals this season, while Barnes – who is a doubt for Saturday’s match due to a groin issue – has netted four.
Dyche said: “He (Vardy) has had his fair share of things that didn’t go his way, but he keeps earning the right to make it go his way, and I think Barnesy is the same. They continually earn the right to push their careers, and I think that is a brilliant thing for anyone to look at.
“Certainly if I was a non-league player, or lower-league player, I’d be looking at it and thinking, ‘it can be done’, because those two are living proof of it, and continue to be.”