Northern Ireland's Conor Washington celebrates scoring their second goal
Northern Ireland striker Conor Washington has admitted to The Guardian that the rags-to-riches rise of Jamie Vardy has proved an inspiration for his own career and has "opened a lot of doors" for players in lower divisions.
This summer will see Washington test himself against the best players in Europe at Europe 2016, marking an incredible rise for a player that was working as a postman and playing part-time at non-league side St Neots Town when Vardy sealed his move to the Foxes in the summer of 2012.
Washington, now of Queens Park Rangers, is understandably appreciative of how his career has turned out, telling The Guardian: “Maybe I didn’t have the rub of the green when I was younger to get into an academy, but I appreciate the way it’s happened for me and I think that’s happening more and more now; people respect lower league quality that bit more."
The 24-year-old, who had previously never been to Belfast until making his Northern Ireland debut against Slovenia earlier this year, has hit the ground running for Michael O'Neil's side, netting twice in four games, including a fine solo effort in that very match at Windsor Park.
Northern Ireland's Conor Washington, William Grigg and Kyle Lafferty pose for photos before they leave for Euro 2016
His rise has understandably brought about comparisons with Vardy, and he believes the forward, who remains heavily linked with a move to Arsenal this summer, could inspire a host of other players in the lower leagues.
“Vardy is definitely an inspiration. You’d be silly to say otherwise really," he added. "People like him, Charlie Austin, who left QPR before I arrived, Andre Gray, who’s doing unbelievably at Burnley, they’ve opened a lot of doors for players like myself. The lower leagues are being respected more now and people are starting to realise that with a bit of coaching here and there they can mould international footballers like Vardy.”