Harry Kane’s inclusion in the England squad has generated widespread media attention, and there is a real excitement around the Tottenham striker, but will he fulfil his potential or fade away like so many overhyped English strikers.
The English media have a new poster boy. ‘A proper striker’, ‘an old-school number 9’, ‘a real English centre forward’. This media frenzy is of course all surrounding Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane’s inclusion in the England squad.
Kane has somewhat exploded rather unexpectedly on the Premier League this season. The Tottenham striker has 29 goals in all competitions this season. Impressively, 19 of these strikes have come in the Premier League, which puts him alongside Diego Costa at the top of the league’s scoring charts.
The 21-year-old London-born striker is almost single-handedly driving Spurs towards the Champions League spots, accounting for 38% of the team’s goals, and even more impressively, contributing to a whopping 22 points, more than any other player in league.
This form has led to Kane being selected in the England senior squad for the first time, where he is likely to make his debut on Friday night against Lithuania at Wembley.
Coming into the squad on the back of a hat-trick against Leicester, Kane is in red hot form but knows his hard work will have to continue if he wants to become a regular in future England squads.
“I’m taking nothing for granted. My attitude now will be the same as it has been at every level when I’ve played for England: work hard, train hard and try to impress the manager. I’m going there with the aim of working my way into the team.
“I don’t expect to turn up and play because I’ve scored a few goals this season. We’ve got some great players, up front especially, but I’m ready to fight for my place. I don’t want to just be a squad man.”
This attitude will serve Kane well if he doesn’t want to become this ‘squad man’. However, a good season of goals and a can-do attitude has not always been a recipe for success for young English strikers.
Here we have a look at five strikers who were in Kane’s position and looked set to ‘make it’ but never quite cut it for England.
Look away now Harry!
5) Michael Ricketts (1 cap/0 goals)
Twenty-four goals in Bolton’s successful promotion via the play-offs in 2001 saw big hopes for Ricketts. Bolton, and especially Ricketts continued this form as they took the league by storm the following season. Ricketts scored an incredible 15 Premier League goals from August to January, including netting the winner at Old Trafford.
This form led to then English manger Sven Goran-Eriksson calling to the 24-year-old striker up to his squad to face the Netherlands. Ricketts played 45 minutes against the Dutch, failing to impress. After his international debut he wouldn’t score again that season.
Scoring 37 goals in 94 games for Bolton, Ricketts moved to Middlesbrough for £3.5 million in January 2003 in a hope he would rediscover his goal scoring form, but alas it never materialised.
June 2004 saw a free transfer to Leeds, but again he failed to hit the ground running, not scoring in 24 league games. A whole host of loans to lower league clubs followed and he was eventually released by Tranmere, his 11th club, in 2010 having scored a miserable 28 goals in eight years following his solitary England cap.
4) Francis Jeffers (1 cap/1 goal)
England versus Australia in 2003. Two young Merseyside-born strikers make their debuts for the Three Lions. Twelve years on and this pair have a massive 102 England caps between them, however these caps aren’t exactly evenly shared.
101 of these appearances belong to Wayne Rooney. After the defeat to the Socceroos in 2003, Francis Jeffers’ England career was over before it had even started. While both striker’s careers started very similarly, the two Evertonians took very different paths.
Labelled ‘the fox in the box’ by Arsene Wenger after the Frenchman splashed £8 million to bring Jeffers to Arsenal from Everton in 2001, he never fulfilled his potential. A career that was littered with injuries and personal issues, he really is a case of ‘what could have been?’
Looking back on his career Jeffers will openly admit to having regrets. During his time at Arsenal he was a victim of the team’s success. With players like Bergkamp and Henry ahead of him, Jeffers struggled to gain first team football.
However, instead of knuckling down to work his way into the team, he admits he
“was out, partying, living life – tossing it off in training because I always thought I wouldn’t play Saturday anyway,” when speaking to the Daily Mail.
It was this lack of commitment and injuries that saw Jeffers fail to add to his solitary England appearance.
He left Arsenal for Charlton Athletic in 2004 for £2.4 million, however it was downhill from here and in 2013 he retired having played for 12 clubs, including stints in Malta and Australia. ‘The fox in the box’ never lived up to his billing.
3) James Beattie (5 caps/0 goals)
Beattie made his English debut alongside Rooney and Jeffers against Australia in 2003. However, unlike Rooney, his international debut was not a stepping stone towards greatness. Beattie’s international career was short and sweat.
He made five appearances in 2003, failing to score. His exclusion from England’s Euro 2004 squad was the end for Beattie as he was never again selected for his country.
There was high hopes for the Lancashire-born striker when he was picked for England. He was the top English goalscorer in the league that season with 23 goals for Southampton, six foot plus, young, strong and seemed to be able to score from anywhere (sound familiar?).
Although Beattie did have a relatively successful career, scoring 90 Premier League goals and racking up £14.5 million in transfer fees, he is another who always seemed as if he could have achieved more.
Both Everton and Sheffield United broke their transfer records on Beattie, but injuries and numerous disagreements with managers meant that he never was able to replicate his form at Southampton.
Since his retirement in 2013 he immediately tried his hand at management, where he received plaudits for keeping Accrington Stanley in The Football League on a shoestring budget. He is currently unemployed.
2) David Nugent (1 cap/1 goal)
Like Jeffers, Nugent has the accolade of scoring on his one and only appearance for England (one of only three players). Nugent, who at the time played for Championship club Preston North End, made his international debut in 2007 in a 3-0 victory against Andorra.
He was the first outfield Football League player in almost ten years to play for England.
A prolific striker at Championship level and as a youth international, Nugent has failed to replicate this form at a top domestic level. His scoring record at Preston and his international recognition led Portsmouth to splash out £6 million and give Nugent his Premier League chance. Only three goals in three seasons for the club saw Portsmouth and Nugent slide back to the Championship.
While Nugent is now getting his second chance at top flight football with Leicester City, he isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. A steady lower end Premier League striker is probably all Nugent will ever be, and he is unlikely to ever to play for his country again.
1) Gabriel Agbonlahor (3 caps/0 goals)
It’s hard to believe, but Gabriel Agbonlahor is only 28 years of age. The Aston Villa man has almost 350 appearances for the club and is playing in his tenth season in the Premier League, so it’s understandable to think Agbonlahor is older than he really is.
Even at the age of 28, like Nugent, you have to feel that his chance with England has passed. Having made his debut for ‘the Three Lions’ in 2008 and not been included in an international squad since 2011, it’s hard to see Agbonlahor featuring again.
A player whose once promising career has seemed to stagnate somewhat at Villa. ‘Gabby’, like Villa, has had a steady decline in the last five years. In 2010 Agbonlahor was unlucky to miss out on the World cup, and Aston Villa were sitting pretty in the top six and playing European football.
A quick look at the table now sees the club languishing in mid table at best, while Agbonlahor looks to be a player going through the motions. In the past five seasons he has only registered 25 goals (nine of these were in 2012/2013). Not exactly ‘England form’.
Will Harry Kane grab his England chance and become a regular for years to come?
Will he forge out a steady Premier League career like Agbonlahor or Beattie?
Will he be an international ‘one hit wonder’ like Nugent or Jeffers?
Or will he slide down the divisions like Michael Ricketts?
Only time will tell…
Conor Sherry, Pundit Arena