Leicester’s talismanic forward Jamie Vardy has said that avoiding relegation with the Foxes would be the ‘biggest achievement’ of his storied career, which has seen the 36-year-old win the Premier League and FA Cup.
The Foxes have spent swathes of the season languishing in the relegation places and now sit 18th in the table with just three matches left to play.
With only three points between Leicester, Leeds, Everton and Nottingham Forest, the battle to stay in the top flight looks set for a dramatic conclusion on the final day of the season.
Vardy has featured for the club since their last promotion to the Premier League in 2014 and played a starring role in their miraculous title win just two years later, but the veteran striker was sidelined under former manager Brendan Rodgers as they battled for form earlier this season.
After Rodgers’ sacking in April, new manager Dean Smith has placed greater faith in Vardy, which paid dividends when he broke his scoring drought in Leicester’s 1-1 draw against Leeds and netted the week after in a feisty 2-2 draw with Everton.
Jamie Vardy shared the physical ‘hurt’ that he feels as Leicester fight to stay in the top flight
The striker has seen a return to form of late but the Foxes have a limited time to make an impact
But despite his personal return to form, Vardy told talkSPORT of the ‘hurt’ he feels while battling to stay up with the club where he became an icon.
‘I think at this moment in time it would be the biggest achievement,’ Vardy said. ‘That’s how important it is.
‘It’s hard and I don’t think hurting is actually a strong enough word for personally how I’m feeling as a person, being here that long.
‘Being on all the ups and downs throughout all of the time that I’ve been here, I’ve never wanted to see us be in a situation like that again so to be where we are, it’s hard to take.
‘We can’t do anything about what’s gone on, it’s gone now. We can’t change results from games that have gone, we know, we’ve got three games left now and we need to pick up points – it’s that simple.’
Vardy joined Leicester in 2012 from National League outfit Fleetwood Town and his rise from non-league striker to Premier League Player of the Season during the Foxes’ successful title run is one of the most awe-inspiring stories in recent memory.
His ties to the club run deep and Vardy shared that he was feeling the pain of looming relegation ‘on a personal level’.
‘I love this club. It’s hurting me on a personal level a real lot,’ he shared. ‘I’ve got to be one that stands up and be accounted for. I’ve got to give my upmost and try to help the team as much as possible.’
Under new manager Dean Smith the 36-year-old has returned to the starting line-up
But Monday’s capitulation against Fulham did nothing to alleviate the relegation threat
Leicester have been punished this season for a leaky defence – which has seen the side fail to keep a clean sheet since early November 2022 – and have struggled with injury issues as well as a divided dressing room under Rodgers, but Vardy admitted he was unable to work out what had led to the team’s present situation.
‘No, I really can’t (single the issue out),’ he said. ‘I think if you ask 99 per cent of people they couldn’t have seen this happening.
‘It’s been tough trying to work out the whys and what’s gone on to get us to be in this situation, you can’t put your finger on it.
‘But it is the situation that we’re in and we’ve got to stand up and be counted for and make sure that we’re doing everything we possibly can to pick up as many points as we can in these last three games to give us a chance.’
Discussing his own dip in form, which saw the striker fail to get on the scoresheet between October and late April, Vardy added: ‘I can’t put my finger on it myself, it’s been really tough. I’m a striker, all I want to do is score goals and help the team and it’s not happened this year for whatever the reason may be.
‘I think one thing that we have done in the past, probably since the Man City game, even the Man City game, we’ve got back to creating them goalscoring opportunities and if you look at the years gone by we’ve been creating clear-cut chances and really good opportunities for each other and I think for the vast majority of this season that kind of faded away.
‘Yeah, we lost to Man City, but could we have got something out of the game with the chances we created? Yeah, we could. And the way we defended that day as a closed unit was really good.
Vardy won the Premier League with Leicester in 2016 but escaping the drop would be a far greater achievement for the player
‘You looked at the next few performances and we were creating the chances again but it didn’t happen, but as long as the chances are coming and we’re still creating then that’s how we make sure we get the points as a team.’
Leicester have a task ahead of them to secure their second win in 16 games against Liverpool, Newcastle, and West Ham as the season draws to a close.
All three teams have come into impressive form of late, with Liverpool now challenging for a top-four place after spending much of the season comfortably mid-table.
West Ham are close to completing their great escape from the relegation scrap after beating Manchester United on Sunday and holding title-chasing Arsenal to a 2-2 draw in April.