The first international break of 2015 comes at the end of March, but the England manager, Roy Hodgson, must currently be contemplating on which strikers to call up to the squad, if all are fit. The 2014/15 Premier League season has been a success so far for English strikers who are trying to appeal to Hodgson, which was highlighted last weekend (3rd and 4th of January). I believe that Roy Hodgson sees Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck as his key three strikers, who he will consistently pick, subject to injuries and fitness levels. This allows one more striker spot in the squad to be competed for and filled. English strikers throughout the league are doing their best to plead their cases to Hodgson, with five in particular, which all scored this past weekend, eyeing up the seemingly vacant fourth striker place in the squad that Rickie Lambert could be giving away. With Lambert limited to only five league starts and one goal this season for Liverpool, Roy Hodgson will be thinking to remove the ageing forward from his international squad in the upcoming fixtures in March. The five strikers who I think are staking a claim for this precious position are Harry Kane, Saido Berahino, Charlie Austin, Andy Carroll and Danny Ings. Scoring a total of 40 league goals between them, these five strikers all offer different qualities to the game, which Hodgson could explore into bringing into the England set up.
Harry Kane – After being on the side-lines for the past year and a half at White Hart Lane, the Tottenham-born 21 year-old striker, Harry Kane, has finally concreted his place in the first team. Previously limited to Europa League and domestic cup appearances, the 2014/15 Premier League season has seen Kane rise to stardom at the Lane, becoming a fans favourite, as he is praised and paraded as ‘one of their own’. The striker was initially given the green light by manager, Mauricio Pochettino, after encouraging Europa League performances and the poor form shown by rival strikers, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado. Kane has not struggled for goals since his introduction into the starting team, scoring 8 goals in 11 starts. This includes a man of the match winning performance against Chelsea, where he tore Chelsea’s, usually organised, defence apart. The young striker has shown that he is good in the air, as he stands at a towering 6 foot 2 inches, but is also technically gifted with his feet, as shown with his calm finishing. During his appearances in the Premier League and Europa League, he has shown football fans that he has a natural eye for goal and is always hungry to score. He could be a welcoming addition to the England national team, through the promotion from the Under-21 squad, offering an alternative style of football to the existing strikers of Welbeck and Sturridge.
Saido Berahino – At the age of 21 years old, Saido Berahino is West Bromwich Albion’s top English goal scorer in the history of the Premier League. Berahino has 9 goals in 17 starts in the Premier League this season, as well as a 4 goal haul in the FA Cup third round tie against Gateshead at the beginning of 2015. The striker has a similar playing style to Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge, as he uses a combination of raw pace and cool finishing, which has been seen throughout the Premier League season. Recently voted as the England Under-21 Player of the Year of 2014, Berahino had a successful calendar year, in which he was given a senior level international call up by manager, Roy Hodgson, in November. Some may say that the promotion to the senior squad was premature, but the striker has shown the form and ability that he is worthy of the prestigious international call up. Recently linked with a January transfer move to clubs such as Liverpool and Tottenham and warranting a transfer fee of around £20 million, Berahino is viewed by his club to have the potential to be of top quality. A move to a higher level team could limit his appearances, but at the moment, he is thriving at West Brom and starting nearly every game. However, by moving to one of these interested clubs, he would be able to prove himself on the European stage in the Europa League competition, and fulfil his potential ability amongst higher quality players.
Charlie Austin – Charlie Austin has taken the Premier League by storm, as he currently sits at the top of the list of English goal scorers this season, with 13 goals in 19 appearances, of which he has all started. Austin’s goal scoring record in the past three seasons has been inspiring for his clubs, Burnley and Queens Park Rangers, averaging a goal roughly every other game, but this has been in the Championship. The step up from the Championship to the Premier League is always tough for teams, especially strikers, as seen in the past with players like Sylvain Ebanks-Blake. However, Austin has dealt with the transition with ease, revealing his top level quality through his eye for goals in his first Premier League season. The 25 year-old striker has shown his natural instinct for goal and his impressive finishing, scoring goals against some of the very best keepers in the league, including Thibaut Courtois and Joe Hart. He has scored goals against four of the top five Premier League sides, and could make it five out of five this weekend as QPR are set to face Manchester United. Austin is a footballer that would offer a clinical touch to the England squad, which it sometimes lacks. It can also be argued that the fact that because he is the top English goal scorer in the league and is in great form, he is deserving of a call up. However, he must aim to carry the impressive statistic and form to March, when Hodgson picks his squad.
Andy Carroll – Andy Carroll is a footballer who has already had a roller coaster career so far and he is still only 26 years of age. Showing incredible form for Newcastle in the Championship and the first half of their first season back in the Premier League, Carroll moved to Liverpool in 2011 for a record-breaking £35 million at the age of 22. After a measly return of 6 goals in 44 league appearances for Liverpool, Carroll was offloaded to West Ham in the 2012/13 season on loan, and then on a permanent basis, as they still paid a high fee of around £15 million for him. At West Ham, Carroll has struggled with injuries, as he only made 15 appearances last season, but since his return this season, Carroll has begun to hit form again. With 4 goals in 10 starts this season, Carroll has shown he has a finishing touch, notably with his finish this weekend against Swansea, as well as his physical presence. His height at 6 foot 4 is an obvious advantage, which he has incorporated into his game, as he frequently wins battles in the air. This can factor play to his advantage, as he would be able to offer a different style of play to the England set up, that none of the existing strikers can. Additionally, the fact that he has been involved with the England national team before, particularly in the 2012 European Championships, will be important as it shows he has international experience. However, Carroll must recreate the form that he has previously shown at Newcastle that commanded the £35 million fee paid by Liverpool, in order to fight his way back into the England squad.
Danny Ings – Burnley were not expected to make much of an impact on the Premier League this season, after winning automatic promotion last season from the Championship. Most football pundits and fans thought they would be relegated straight away and some even spoke of the possibility of the club breaking Derby County’s unwanted record of the lowest points total in the Premier League. However, Sean Dyche’s team have surprised some, as they are showing the league that they are not willing to go down without a fight. Burnley’s relegation battle has been eased through the fact that they have their star striker, Danny Ings, hitting form for them. Ings, whose contract with Burnley expires this summer, has scored 6 goals in 18 appearances this season, but took 7 games to score his first goal in the Premier League. Since the first goal, he looks like a player bursting with confidence, on a mission to keep his team in the top division. Ings’ quality has lifted Burnley out of the relegation zone this January and has attracted interest from rival clubs in the league, as The Mirror described him as “the most sought after striker in the January transfer window”. However, Dyche has said he is staying put, which could mean him leaving for free in the summer, but will allow him to stake his claim for a place in the England national team as Burnley’s first choice striker. The 22 year-old now has to carry his form on throughout the season, in an attempt to catch Hodgson’s eye, and maybe a possible suitor this summer if Burnley are relegated.
There is still a month and a half until the international fixtures, but Roy Hodgson must be thinking about which strikers he would take if they are all fit. These fixtures could be tough matches, including a home European Championships qualifying tie against Lithuania, and a difficult friendly away at Italy. The friendly could be the opportunity for one of these strikers to announce (or re-announce for Carroll) their name onto the senior international stage. Kane, Berahino, Austin, Carroll and Ings all need to carry their form through to March, in order to fight their way into the squad. England fans must finally be revelling the fact that, for the first time in years, there are numerous strikers to choose from who are in goal scoring form, but Hodgson must be pondering and contemplating which players he should choose.
(Statistics correct as of 14/01/2015)