Jake Wright smiled when he heard Chris Wilder being bombarded with questions about Jamie Vardy.
After all, the Sheffield United defender knows better than most that playing non-league football does not limit your opportunities.
Vardy was the talk of United’s pre-match press conference yesterday as journalists quizzed Wilder, who cut his coaching teeth at Halifax Town and Alfreton, about the England striker’s journey from Stocksbridge Park Steels to Leicester City.
Wright, the player chosen by Bramall Lane’s media team to discuss tonight’s Carabao Cup tie between the two clubs, also understands what it is like to turn professional the hard way after launching his own career at The Shay.
“Everytime you step up a level, people question whether you’re good enough,” he said. “But you’ve just got to work hard and have belief in your own ability.”
Wright was keen to avoid direct comparisons with Vardy when he discussed the second round encounter yesterday; emphasising the City centre-forward has been capped 16 times by his country whereas he has played just two Championship games. Nevertheless, if they lock horns this evening, it should prove a fascinating duel between two players who have made a habit of proving people wrong.
“I knew when I came here, because I’d not played at that level before, I’d have to be patient and show what I can do,” Wright, a member of last season’s League One title winning squad, said. “And the same went when In didn’t make the team on the first day (of the campaign) too. Really, whatever the level, my job doesn’t change. I just try and do it to the best of my ability.”
Wilder, who worked with Wright in West Yorkshire, signed the 31-year-old from his former employers Oxford after being appointed United manager last summer.
“Jake has to produce, as they all have wherever they come from, “ he said. “Harry Arter at Bournemouth is someone we spoke about in the summer; a lad who was at Conference level and then the next minute is in the Premier League.
“Jamie Vardy is a fabulous example, too. There is no snobbery here, as to where we get them from. If we feel they can move forward with us, they will be here.”
With Richard Stearman nursing a hamstring complaint, Wright is expected to feature against City as United look to reach the third round stage.
“I’ve played against top-flight clubs before in the cups,” he said. “And, like I said, your responsibilities are still the same. We won’t change the way we go about things and why would we? We’ll look to press and be positive because that’s what we’re good at. And, although we weren’t in League One, everybody I speak to tells me this club enjoys being the underdog. So hopefully we can turn that to our advantage once again.”