England’s Striking Dilemma
Remember when we were convinced that England had a wealth of first-rate strikers? It wasn’t that long ago. Indeed, Roy Hodgson headed into Le Euro 2016, secure in the knowledge that he had the Premier League’s top two scorers tucked away in his hand luggage, next to his toothbrush and microbead face wash— Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy.
Accomplished finisher Daniel Sturridge came along for the ride, too, as well as Marcus Rashford, the nation’s Most Exciting Prospect since the last one.
All was well in the garden of England’s forwards and there was many a talented and varied fruit to pick.
Well that idea, seemingly, has been thrown to the compost heap.
Apart from waiting for instructions on claiming Paddy’s Offer, what other conclusion to draw, after learning that Harry Kane had been called up for the international double-header against Spain and Scotland this fortnight, on the back of clocking up a total of 70 minutes in the last six weeks?
Now, a lot of people watched the North London Derby on Sunday. Presumably a fair few of those viewers might’ve noticed that the young Chingfordian was a touch off the pace. Unless you’re compiling Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week, and equate performance exclusively with goals scored, finding the net doesn’t necessarily a good shift make.
A successful penalty conversion shouldn’t mask the fact that Kane appeared a good few weeks short of peak physical fitness. Astonishingly, he looked like someone who hadn’t played competitive football for two months.
But, hey-oh, chuck him in the squad anyway. If he can walk, he can work, right?
It’s not great reading elsewhere in England’s centre-forward stable. All the skittle vodka and Red Bulls look to have caught up with Jamie Vardy finally, as he tries to bludgeon out some of the magic from last season’s fairy tale.
Punching dwarves and cartoon-eyed unicorns; literally punching himself in the face to awaken 2015/16 version of Jamie Vardy from his poisoned-apple slumber. Oh, Jamie. Defenders looked to have worked out the formula.
Daniel Sturridge can’t get a game, limited to 80th minute cameos in the League and EFL Cup run-outs. Jürgen Klopp is a demanding sort and for all the England man’s animated vignettes, the Liverpool coach is understandably sticking to his formidable Mané-Firmino-Coutinho trifecta.
Marcus Rashford, likewise, is struggling for game time, butting up against a system that doesn’t entirely suit him, and one Zlatan Ibrahimović. Who, even if you told was dropped, would smirk, thank you for the good joke, then trot out on to the pitch anyway. After a breakneck initial trajectory, Rashford’s early career is stalling somewhat.
England are not in the rudest health, then, striker-wise. Are there any left-field choices out there? Jermain Defoe, at 34, feels like a wasted bet, despite being the top scoring Englishman this season. Next on this list, discounting Theo Walcott, who has declared himself out of the Strikers’ Guild, is Charlie Austin.
One thing’s for sure, Harry Kane should’ve been nowhere near inclusion, and it’s a worrying trend that he’s got automatic admission to the squad, at 60% fitness at best. Madness.