Jamie Vardy and Charlie Austin feel their unorthodox journeys into the England squad have prepared them perfectly for the international arena.
When footballers say they have to pinch themselves when they get their first England call-up, it is always treated with a degree of cynicism, but in this case the surprise was genuine.
Six years ago, QPR’s Austin was turning out for part-timers Poole Town in the Wessex League. Two years earlier, he took a job a job as a bricklayer in order to make ends meet after being released by Reading.
Leicester’s Vardy, meanwhile, was plying his trade with Sheffield club Stocksbridge Park Steels for a wage packet of just £30 a week. He moved to Halifax and then on to Fleetwood in 2011.
Tomorrow they hope to line up for England in Dublin, in a friendly against the Republic of Ireland.
“It doesn’t feel real,” Vardy said. “There’s been a lot of hard work put into it, and I have to pinch myself most days”
It was not all plain sailing, however. After being convicted of assault on a night out, Vardy was forced to wear an electronic tag. His 6pm curfew proved a problem.
“If the away games were too far, I could only play an hour,” he said.