While Leicester City's Jamie Vardy was scoring for England against Germany last March, it was a lesser-known James Vardy whose name was on the lips of Jeff Stelling and his Sky Sports colleagues, as he joined them on the Men United March. He tells us why he's walking with Jeff again this year, how his involvement led him to get his own health checked, and the perils of errant Twitter followers every time Jamie Vardy scores.
Within 20 minutes of Leicester City winning the league last year, Nottingham Forest fan and sales manager James Vardy (@JimVardy) had 40 new followers on Twitter. When your namesake is a famous international and Premiership striker (pictured below) who regularly hits the headlines, you get used to it happening on a daily basis.
"Oh my God, my Facebook and Twitter goes crazy!" says James, who still finds the constant stream of people mistaking him for Jamie Vardy online amusing. "It’s generally young lads and African footballers. I have a look who they’re following on Twitter when they follow me, and it’s the Leicester City team, Zlatan and then me!"
James first heard about Prostate Cancer UK after spotting our 'Man of Men' pin-badge on the lapel of Jeff Stelling and his fellow pundits on his favourite TV sports show.
"I’m an avid watcher of Soccer Saturday," says James, who runs an under-15s football team in Nottingham. "I googled 'Sky Sports Man Badge' and realised it was about Prostate Cancer UK. Once I’d visited their website and found out what the badge meant, my next thought was how do I get one?"
James now proudly sports his badge on the touchline every Saturday, emulating his Soccer Saturday heroes.
"I want to make people aware of prostate cancer," he says, which is why he also joined Jeff Stelling on the Derby-to-Nottingham leg of last year's 262-mile Men United March, raising over £2,000 for Prostate Cancer UK.
"I really, really enjoyed it, despite the pain I went through at the end of it with my blisters!" he says of his marathon-distance walk. "The following day, we got to go to Burton Albion for a match in hospitality. You have to wear a suit and shoes, but I got special dispensation because of my blisters and was allowed to wear trainers."
James credits his involvement with the March for spurring him on to get his own health checked by a doctor, requesting a PSA test during a routine health check.
"The test results came back normal," says James. "But if it hadn’t been for finding out more about prostate cancer, I probably wouldn’t have done that."
Now he's signed up for Jeff Stelling's March for Men in June, joining the presenter on one of 15 consecutive daily walking marathons on his journey from Exeter to Newcastle. Like Leicester and England’s Vardy, our Vardy is expecting a tougher second campaign but hopefully just as enjoyable.
"It will be a lot harder this time, but I'll be doing a lot more training," he says. One thing's for certain, he's bound to end up with a few more mistaken Twitter followers before he crosses the finishing line.