From the halcyon days of Shearer, Sheringham, Fowler and Cole, to the dearth of striking options of Euro 2012, England have had the good, the bad and the ugly up front over the years. From Gary Lineker to Andy Carroll, they’ve not all been successful – in fact, most have not.
None has ever lived up to the greatest of all, Geoff Hurst. Like the rest of the team, the bar was set too high and a 50-year lull ensued. Hurst’s achievement in an England shirt will probably never be eclipsed. But his presence also has darkened the doorsteps of an array of fine strikers. His 1966 World Cup final hat-trick seems an impossible task to emulate, even for the record-breaking Wayne Rooney. But a band of merry men are now following in Rooney’s wake, giving their manager an improbable problem.
Alan Shearer was the Premier League’s best; a truly world class frontman with an eye for goal so deadly that he is still revered as an all-time great – despite a shortage of honours with both club and country. Andy Cole won 15 caps over a seven-year spell, which was a travesty. Teddy Sheringham was a bastion of the English game and a reliable-enough option in the front line, while the likes of Robbie Fowler, Matt Le Tissier and Jermaine Defoe ought to have enjoyed far more glittering England careers.
But now, led by Rooney – still the talisman in Hodgson’s squad – England are suddenly blessed with extraordinary options. The unpredictable Premier League has spawned a new star in the relentless Jamie Vardy. Two forgotten men – Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge – are back into the fold. Then there’s the small matter of Harry Kane; an all-round striker whose form in the past 12 months means he must travel to France in the summer.
Can Hodgson afford to fit them all into the same squad? The England boss must factor in the form of his attacking midfielders and what formation he wants to play when making his decision.
The realists argue that either Sturridge or Welbeck should miss out, or that Vardy lacks the experience (or genuine quality) needed for international football. They could be right. Yet given the fitness worries that hang over Sturridge and Welbeck, Hodgson is unlikely to include them both in a four-man strikeforce, alongside Rooney and Kane. He will probably plump for the pace and penetration that the Leicester man offers. And with the Foxes at the summit of the Premier League thanks in no small part to Vardy’s goal, who could disagree?
Going for all five striking options could spell bad news for the likes of Theo Walcott and Adam Lallana and could signal Hodgson’s intention to start with two frontmen. The England boss deployed a diamond in midfield during qualification and will be at pains to leave Rooney out. Taking five strikers and a glut of central midfielders might mean a return for the famed diamond. And with Walcott seemingly out-of-sorts for Arsenal and not considered a central striker by Roy, Rooney, Vardy, Kane, Sturridge and Welbeck could be England’s ‘perfect’ quintet.