England looking strikingly good and have options all over the pitch
All of a sudden, an abundance of potential, young and talented England strikers are threatening to force their way into the Three Lions squad, and take up residence for years to come.
Only four and half years ago, at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, England, 12/1 with Coral to win Euro 2016, could only name Wayne Rooney, realistically, as their top superstar striker. Although they also took proven poacher Jermain Defoe, and the handful that is Peter Crouch, they were forced to turn to Emile Heskey who was 32 at the time, though was surprisingly effective.
Fast forward to 2015 and Roy Hodgson has a plethora of talent to choose from in attack. As well as captain Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, although currently injured is a goal machine, and Danny Welbeck who has struck five in four European Championship qualifiers this season in the Liverpool man’s absence.
Also, clearly in Hodgson’s thinking is West Bromwich Albion ace Saido Berahino, probably the most natural finisher in the Premier League, and the 21-year-old was on the bench for the friendly against Scotland. Tottenham’s Harry Kane has also shown he is a class act, and will undoubtedly be propelled into senior team after coming to the Three Lions boss’s attention.
“We have watched [Kane] for a while and I worked with him briefly in the Under-21s when I filled in for one game. Harry has come on in leaps and bounds and I’m not surprised because I know [the former coaches] Tim Sherwood and Les Ferdinand very well,” Hodgson said.
Elaborating further, he went on to mention a number of others, including Berahino and Burnley’s Danny Ings who have come to his attention recently.
“They have worked with him at Tottenham and they always believed in him as a goalscorer. It’s tremendous to see people like him doing so well and quite strange that in the Under-21s a year or two ago we were bemoaning the fact we didn’t think our forwards were up to the level of the midfielders – and yet suddenly Kane, Saido Berahino and Ings are all doing exceptionally well.”
He didn’t stop there. It’s easy to under-estimate the impact someone like Charlie Austin is having for QPR, though the England boss clearly regards him highly.
“Charlie is doing very well,” he continued. “He’s another one who has come through the lower leagues and, a bit like Rickie Lambert, I’m sure people have watched Charlie many times and dismissed him because he doesn’t run like the wind. You can be a good footballer sometimes without needing to run like the wind and Harry Redknapp has brought the best out of him for QPR.”
It is perhaps interesting that he mentioned Lambert. There is no doubt about the centre forward’s ability and he is clearly a fan’s favourite, though we have seen too many times the dangers of picking players for sentimental reasons. If a player isn’t playing regularly for his club either, it isn’t fair on others who are and scoring week-in week-out.
Burnley boss, Sean Dyche has also spoken on the subject of young English stars, and has said they are under-appreciated compared to foreign stars.
“I think we’re all guilty of it at some point,” Dyche said.
“We’ve all been brainwashed by it, that we’re not as strong nationally. We’ve just got to be careful.”
“We keep moaning about our national side, and then there are a million questions about all these development plans,” Dyche added. “We have to think, ‘hang on a minute, where are we really at?’.
“When we get some little shining lights here and there, it’s sort of like, ‘Oh well’, and then we go back to grumbling.
“We should enjoy it and encourage it, because they are the pathway for little Jonny aged seven who’s playing in the park, saying, ‘I want to be [Harry] Kane’.”
“It seems to me that if a British player does something, the reaction is, ‘Oh yeah, decent’, whereas when it is someone brought from other shores for a big fee it’s, ‘Look at that, isn’t it amazing?’.
“Just because [Harry] Kane hasn’t been brought in for £50m, it doesn’t mean he’s not a good player,” the Clarets boss continued.
“There’s a balance to it. But I think it’s good these young British players are playing in the Premier League. It is the way forward as regards the national systems because it’s the highest level they can play at.”
Then there is Andy Carroll, who Hodgson took to Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland. However, he would more than justify being selected in the squad for the next round of qualifiers, having proved to be a handful for opposition defenders since returning from injury and contributing four goals.
Southampton’s forgotten man, Jay Rodriguez, who is recovering from a long term knee injury, had an impressive goal record for the Saints last term and was under serious consideration by Hodgson to make the World Cup squad, even gaining one cap before he got injured. Set to return in February, if he can start to produce similar performances of when he was on top his game, he will present Hodgson with a problem.
Are we now entering an era where strikers are coming back into fashion, even on a global platform? Rewind back 10-15 years and there wasn’t really such a thing as a triumvirate of attacking midfielders. Playing two in attack was traditional and out-and-out strikers were plentiful. Michael Owen, Ronaldo, Fernando Morientes and David Trezeguet, Christian Vieri, Hernan Crespo and Patrick Kluivert are just a few examples.
Spain, who brought back the ‘tiki taka’ style and tweaked it slightly, utilising mainly attacking midfielders have now developed a number of strikers, just like England. Alvaro Morata, Jese Rodriguez, Paco Alcacer and Rodrigo Moreno are four young talented forwards on the verge of breaking into the Spanish first team and becoming permanent fixtures, as boss Vicente del Bosque looks for a new approach.
World Cup winners Germany though have a very scarce striker pool to choose from. The closest they have to an out-and-out centre forward is the prolific Thomas Muller who is often deployed as a ‘false nine’, another term that returned to fashion last decade.
For England, they now have versatility and options. They will soon be able to compete with Germany, who arguably have some of the best attacking midfielders in the world; Mario Gotze, Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus and Julian Draxler to name just a few.
With Ross Barkley coming through, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain improving with every game, the impeccably stylish Adam Lallana, England’s next potential superstar Raheem Sterling, string-puller Jack Wilshere and speed merchant Theo Walcott to name just a handful, the Three Lions have the personnel to switch tactics should they so wish.
Fans can look forward with encouragement to the future, considering the amount of attacking options on offer. Like anything, football is cyclical; the good old heydays mirroring those of Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham, Andy Cole and Robbie Fowler could be about to return where top quality strikers were available in abundance.