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Vardy an inspiration for lower-league players - Washington

Football Soccer - Euro 2016 - England Training - Stade des Bourgognes - Chantilly - 7/6/16 England's Jamie Vardy during training REUTERS/Lee Smith
Football Soccer - Euro 2016 - England Training - Stade des Bourgognes - Chantilly - 7/6/16 England's Jamie Vardy during training REUTERS/Lee Smith

(Reuters) - Lower-league footballers can take inspiration from players like Leicester City forward Jamie Vardy, who plied his trade in various tiers of the game prior to his England call-up for Euro 2016, Northern Ireland striker Conor Washington has said.

Vardy, who started his career at non-league sides Stocksbridge Park Steels and FC Halifax before moving from League One club Fleetwood Town to Leicester in 2012, scored 24 Premier League goals during the side's title-winning season.

Washington, who joined Queens Park Rangers from Peterborough United in January, also hailed the impact of fellow lower-league graduates Charlie Austin of Southampton and Andre Gray, who inspired Burnley to England's top flight this year.

"Vardy is definitely an inspiration. You'd be silly to say otherwise really," Washington told British media.

"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."

Washington was included in Northern Ireland's 23-man squad for this month's European Championship in France, where they face Poland, Ukraine and Germany in Group C.

(Reporting by Ian Rodricks in Bengaluru; Editing by John O'Brien)

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