For the first time in a long time, England have a decision to make regarding which strikers to bring to a major championships.
Gone are the days when seat-fillers such as Darius Vassell and a then-16 year old Theo Walcott were brought to make up the numbers – Roy Hodgson now has genuine options on who to bring to the European Championships in France this summer.
Not since the days when the likes of Ian Wright, Andy Cole and Robbie Fowler, genuinely brilliant English strikers, could not even make the squad most of the time, have the Three Lions had so many options at any one time.
The choices are many, but the places are few. Some are guaranteed their seat on the plane, while for others the remaining weeks of the season should be treated as an audition as they look to impress Hodgson.
So who should England bring to Euro 2016? Below are the main candidates:
The Main Contenders:
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
Caps: 8 Goals: 3 League Appearances/Goals for this season: 31/21
Verdict: Already on the plane. Kane is the most in-form striker in the Premier League, and has scored at least 20 league goals for two seasons running. Not only should he go to France, he should be the focal point of England’s attack as he is unquestionably the country’s best forward right now.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Caps: 109 Goals: 51 League Appearances/Goals for this season: 22/7
Verdict: Certainty. England’s overall top scorer and captain has had his critics but his place in the national setup has never been under threat. Despite missing the England squad for the upcoming March friendlies due to injury, Rooney can expect to regain his place for the next squad in May, provided of course that he can prove his fitness by then.
Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)
Caps: 4 Goals: 0 League Appearances/Goals for this season: 30/19
Verdict: Vardy’s goal tally for this year suggests he should go, and a Leicester title will would probably solidify his place. The goals have dried up slightly after a blistering first half – scoring just four in his last sixteen games – and Hodgson may decide that his lack of international and big tournament experience puts him lower in the pecking order. His place in the squad is likely, but not guaranteed.
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Caps: 16 Goals: 5 League Apps./Goals for this season: 7/4
Verdict: Two years ago, there would be no question that Sturridge would be involved in France, but a succession of injuries over the past eighteen or so months have seen his star fade slightly. Still absolutely lethal on his day, however, and possesses a natural finishing ability that few in the league can match. If he can stay fit between now and May, he will go to the Euros.
Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
Caps: 33 Goals: 14 League Apps./Goals for this season: 5/3
Verdict: Another whose season has been curtailed by injuries, but his status as a Hodgson favourite will see him on the plane. England’s second top scorer in qualifying, his proficiency as part of a front three gives Hodsgon scope for tactical reshuffles should the situation call for it. His strong return from a year-long injury has also put him in good stead. Another whose place in the squad depends entirely on his ability to remain injury-free.
Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
Caps: 42 Goals 8 League Apps./Goals for this season: 22/4
Verdict: There’s a very good chance he will go, but he should still be slightly worried. Walcott has been used primarily in a striking role at Arsenal this season – but on that basis he has no place in the squad. He is therefore likely to battle with Raheem Sterling for a place on the wing with Welbeck on the other side. The probability is high that he will be included in the 23-man squad, but has not impressed enough to expect a starting role.
Jermain Defoe (Sunderland)
Caps: 55 Goals: 19 League Apps./Goals for this season: 26/12
Verdict: Having returned permanently from semi-retirement in Toronto 18 months ago, Defoe has picked up where he left off in the Premier League. A return of twelve goals in a side threatened by relegation is impressive, but doesn’t by itself merit inclusion in the squad. He also hasn’t been near the squad for three years, rendering his inclusion highly unlikely bar an injury crisis. Defoe’s international career has come and gone, one suspects.
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Caps: 0 Goals: 0 League Apps./Goals for this season: 4/3
Verdict: The clamour for the 18-year-old’s inclusion has become that bit louder following his heroics Man United’s derby win at the weekend. If the talent pool wasn”t so strong he might actually have a chance, but as it is he will have to bide his time. Many have pointed to the examples of Michael Owen’s international beginnings, but the the then-Liverpool striker had a full Premier League season under his belt before his inclusion, rather than a handful of games. Will not go, nor should he.
Andy Carroll (West Ham United)
Caps: 9 Goals: 2 League Apps./Goals for this season: 19/4
Verdict: Used as the alternative (i.e. aerial – see also: Crouch, Peter and Lambert, Rickie) option by Hodgson at Euro 2012, Carroll’s career has never really recovered from having a £35million weight chained to his leg. He has looked dangerous for West Ham at times this season but has been in and out of the side due to injuries. Very little chance of making the Euro 2016 squad.
Troy Deeney (Watford)
Caps: 0 Goals: 0 League Apps./Goals for this season: 30/9
Verdict: It has been quite the debut Premier League season season for Deeney, as his partnership with fellow forward Odion Ighalo has almost single-handedly kept Watford comfortably in the division. There were calls for the 27-year-old to be included in Hodgson’s latest squad – and although he hasn’t earned one this time, Hodgson has “left the door open.” He will consider himself unlucky (as will many others), but Deeney is set to miss out this summer.