Football Brendan Rodgers: Leicester manager shows Jamie Vardy is central to the club’s plans


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Vardy is a world class striker – Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers has been quick to work out one of the first rules of Leicester City – when Jamie Vardy is happy, the club and its supporters are happy.

Vardy’s seemingly fractious relationship with sacked Claude Puel was a running sub-plot before the manager’s eventual downfall as the 32-year-old and the dour Frenchman never seemed on the same wavelength.

Puel never seemed to trust Vardy’s pace and more direct approach as he wanted Leicester to work within a more studied and subtle framework, leading to frustration among fans who felt The Foxes’ best asset was not being utilised.

In less than two weeks, it has become abundantly clear that Rodgers will not be making the same mistake.

This is a powerful Leicester City dressing room, one where the big characters such as Vardy, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and others work better when in tune with the manager.

In contrast to the discontented noises off-stage during the Puel reign, Rodgers could not have been more complimentary about Vardy had he stopped to hurl red roses in front of his car as it drove out of The King Power Stadium.

And on the evidence of his first two games, particularly his first win here against a woeful and doomed Fulham, it is easy to see why.

Vardy can be as high maintenance as he likes if he gives Rodgers the sort of cutting edge he delivered here in unselfishly making Leicester’s first for Youri Tielemans then taking his tally to the century mark for the club with two goals to overcome Fulham after Floyd Ayite’s leveller.

Leicester’s fans still cling, somewhat unrealistically, to images of Vardy’s searing pace taking them to the Premier League title in 2015-16.

Rodgers has inherited the new reality and while someone (and he wants to lay down long-term foundations so it may well be him) will eventually have to thank Vardy for his services and move him on, that time is nowhere in sight yet.

Leicester’s new manager launched a heavy charm offensive in Vardy’s direction, helped by an outstanding display here. He praised Vardy in a manner that was warmer than some of Puel’s more grudging offerings.

Rodgers has now won all seven of his Premier League matches against Fulham

Rodgers knows a major influence when he sees one and Vardy was left in no doubt as to how important he is.

“I’m very pleased he’s here,” said Rodgers. “My teams always have someone up front who will press. I always like mobility.

“He’s tactically very, very good. He starts off our press really well. He’s a wonderful striker who scored two very good goals.”

He added: “We want to get players in and around him. You saw if you get him in high enough up the pitch he doesn’t need many chances to score.

“Jamie’s a wonderful player and a good guy who wants to train and wants to get better. Hopefully our style and identity will help him even more.

“My teams have always had strikers of that ilk, ones that are mobile at the top of the pitch, who can help at the top of the pitch and score.”

There you have it. Quite pleased.

This was a full-on embrace as Rodgers identified his most potent spearhead and showered him with bouquets.

And, after a traumatic week off the pitch followinga burglary at his family homewith his wife and step-daughter inside at the time, it was easy to understand Rodgers’ pleasure at his first three points since his departure from Celtic which was accompanied by such an acrimonious reaction north of the border. This was back to business as it was supposed to be when he left Glasgow.

Vardy becomes the first player to achieve the feat for the Foxes since Gary Lineker

Rodgers was made to feel at home right away, a banner stretching around one corner of The King Power Stadium reading: “Brendan Rodgers. The City Is Behind You.”

He was afforded a warm reception when he appeared pitchside and it all ended well despite a bump that followed Ayite’s scrappy equaliser.

Fulham, despite a brief show of fight, were always teetering on the brink of the sort of collapse that will see their return to the Championship confirmed shortly.

And it was a clear glimpse into the sort of future Rodgers desires when James Maddison pounced on Fulham’s cheap concession of possession to send Vardy racing clear to beat Sergio Rico in trademark style to restore Leicester’s advantage.

Vardy’s third was a final flourish but it was the links, such as that between Maddison and Vardy, that he will be trying to encourage, getting players in and around the striker to utilise the searing pace he still possesses and the havoc it can still cause.

Rodgers, whosedecision to leave Celticwhen he did was perhaps the biggest surprise surrounding his departure, can use the last eight games to start plotting for next season.

It gives him valuable time to put his imprint on Leicester City ready for for next term.

And it is clear Vardy will be central to his plans after he gave the striker the sort of public love and praise he rarely, if ever, enjoyed under Claude Puel.

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