There has been a lot of talk of late, and rightly so, regarding an inclusion of some of England’s younger strikers to stake a claim in the senior squad.
England’s next fixture doesn’t come until 27th of March, when they partake in a Euro 2016 qualifier against fourth placed Lithuania at Wembley Stadium, closely followed four days later with a trip to Italy for a friendly international.
England currently top Group E in the qualifiers with four wins from four games. They also boast two in form strikers. Arsenal front man Danny Welbeck is currently leading the scoring charts of all teams in the competition on an impressive five goals, followed just behind by captain Wayne Rooney who sits on three. They have started together in every game of this group so far, along with the teams trip north when they successfully overhauled rivals Scotland 3-1 at Celtic Park back in November. The only other striker that his made the field during this campaign is Liverpool striker Rickie Lambert, but so far is yet to find the net.
Lamberts inclusion in the national side may be a thing of the past soon enough, as the 33 year old is struggling for goals for both club and country. Having only scored 2 in 22 appearances for Liverpool this season, with most of those appearances coming as substitute, Roy Hodgson may need to look at other options.
One of those options is a player that he has expressed interest in already, and has given him some international recognition over the last two fixtures. That man is West Brom’s Saido Berahino, who has been involved in the squad, albeit as an unused substitute against Slovenia and Scotland respectively. Berahino has been in devastating form for the England under-21 side, having scored 10 in 13 appearances, and leading the goal-scoring charts with nine goals during their European Qualification campaign. He is just as consistent at club level too, with 14 goals in 25 appearances in all competitions this season already, four of which coming in the Baggies FA Cup victory over Gateshead.
Another consistent performer, at both club and under-21 level, is Tottenham Hotspurs’ Harry Kane. This explosive young striker has burst on the scene in the last 12 months, scoring 5 goals during Gareth Southgate’s under-21 qualification campaign (8 in his last 10 including friendlies) but more notably he has helped Spurs’ season with a remarkable return of 18 goals in just 26 appearances in all competitions. At just 21, the same age as Berahino, he and the West Brom front man both are staking a real claim to push up from youth level to the senior squad. If they can both remain consistent at club level, Hodgson could soon be faced with a selection headache.
Two other names mentioned are Burnley’s Danny Ings and QPR’s Charlie Austin. Ings has represented his country, like Berahino and Kane, at under 21 level, with the 22 year old scoring four goals in seven appearances for his country. He has also managed to notch up six goals in his first spell in the Premier League this season, which is a return of one goal every three games. 25 year old Charlie Austin however has never represented his country at any level. Despite this, his career to date is simply remarkable. In 2009, he was playing for Wessex League Premier Division side Poole Town. His goalscoring exploits of an incredible 64 goals in 57 appearances over just two seasons were attracting bigger clubs, one of which was League One club Swindon Town. He signed for the Robins having made an incredible leap through the football leagues, and his phenomenal record infront of goal continued. Over the next two seasons for Town, he scored 37 goals in 65 appearances. Again, even bigger clubs became interested and Championship side Burnley signed him. Three years at the Clarets and another 45 goals later, he joined QPR, where he has netted a further 33 in 57 appearances, including 20 in their promotional season last year. Austin could be a gamble for Hodgson, having not played at any level internationally. Despite this, his goalscoring record speaks for itself, and as the Premier League’s top current English goal scorer, he too could push for his first cap.
As an Englishman, you can’t help but feel a sense of pride and excitement when you see these types of players, like just over 10 years ago when we first saw Wayne Rooney, or even just over 20 years ago when Beckham, Scholes and the Nevilles made their introduction.
Hodgson is a manager keen to blood young talent into his senior squad, it’s something he has done since replacing Fabio Capello back in 2012. But he does also have a couple of other options.
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge still remains injured, and upon his return, even he could face a struggle to return to this England team, having only made 3 appearances this season. Another contender could be West Ham striker Andy Carroll. At 26, he is only one year older than Austin, but he has represented his country on 9 occasions, scoring twice, in addition to his 2 goals in 5 appearances at under 21 level. He has only scored 6 in all competitions so far this season, but standing at 6’4″, he could give Hodgson a different attacking option, one we haven’t seen since Peter Crouch wore the shirt.
A couple of older options that could, and I stress the term could, tempt the ‘gaffer’ are the aforementioned Peter Crouch and new Sunderland signing Jermain Defoe. Both have a wealth of Premier League and international experience, with Crouch boasting a remarkable return of 22 goals in 42 appearances for his country, whilst Defoe, who is back playing in the Premier League, has 55 caps, scoring 19 goals along the way. He even managed 11 in just 19 appearances whilst playing for Toronto in the MLS.
Hodgson has some tough decisions ahead when he names his squads for the qualifier at home to Lithuania and away friendly against Italy. More than likely, he’ll pick Rooney and Welbeck, both having made impressive starts to England’s campaign. The other two or three strikers he decides however are likely to be from this list. In doing so, exciting and optimistic times lay ahead, and the future of English football looks promising.
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