Football

Roy Hodgson cannot complain about his England striking options

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"They think it's all over. It is now!" The immortal commentary echoes in a nation's memory as Sir Geoff Hurst completes his world cup winning hat trick in 1966.

"That's the way I like it!" an ecstatic Gary Linekar mouths to Gazza, after finding the back of the German's net on that night in Turin. "SHEARER!" is the cry chorused around Wembley as the famous Geordie rifles England's fourth in an emphatic demolition of the Dutch in 1996.

The goal-scoring exploits of strikers of yesteryear are etched into the history of the English National side.

The English centre forward is a part of footballing legend, but in the last decade it has become closer to a myth. Whilst Roy Hodgson is cursing injuries and luck for his current affliction: a crucial World Cup qualifier away to Ukraine with two available strikers, he is far more fortunate than his recent managerial predecessors.

England's last truly top class strike partnership was under Sven Goran Eriksson, in the first half of last decade. They were able to combine the penetrative movement and goal-scoring instinct of Michael Owen with the vision and raw ability of young Wayne Rooney.

Sadly, they only starred together at Rooney's maiden tournament, Euro 2004. As injury gradually forced Owen into decline, England's options up front also waned.

Preparations for World Cup 2006 were defined by an anxious wait for Rooney to recover from injury. The other talking point was Eriksson's infamous decision to call up uncapped, 17-year-old, Theo Walcott.

Long ball magnet, Peter Crouch (who to be fair has a good England record of 22 in 42, amassed against the likes of Macedonia, Estonia and Andorra) completed the England set.

Such was the perceived lack of quality attacking options; Rooney was rushed back into the side. Then, when Owen's knee succumbed to a fatal twist, Rooney was reduced to an isolated and frustrated figure, rampaging around the forward line alone and eventually being sent off for lashing out at Portugal's Ricardo Carvalho.

Experiments with Dean Ashton and Darren Bent failed to yield double figures, in terms of caps and/or goals, for either by World Cup 2010.

The lack of emerging attacking talent forced Fabio Capello to call upon the same old supporting cast to Rooney. Even as a 31-year-old with a goal return of seven from 62 caps, Emile Heskey was deemed the best option to lead the line. He started two of England's three group games, before coming on in the 4-1 devastation by Germany.

Despite (once again) just returning from injury, Rooney was (once again) the only genuine goal threat and top class forward. He ended up having a goalless and frustrating tournament (once again).

Now things are different. Yes, Hodgson has been robbed of Welbeck through a ridiculous suspension whilst Rooney and Sturridge are fallen victims of injury, yet the arsenal of firepower he has at his disposal, when all are available, would attract envious glances from former bosses Eriksson, McClaren, and Capello.

In Danny Welbeck, Hodgson has a willing runner with pace, intelligence of movement, and physicality. Whilst his finishing needs improvement, three goals in his last two England games and two in three for United is evidence of work in progress.

In 24-year-old Sturridge, Hodgson has a player with genuine potential. He may have struggled for goals whilst forced wide at Manchester City and Chelsea, but his tally for Liverpool (16 goals in 20 appearances) is world class. The challenge now is consistency, but the man described by Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers as a "Brazilian striker" has all the skill and talent to suggest a fruitful partnership, first with Rooney and then with Welbeck in the long term.

With those two unavailable against Ukraine, Hodgson has had to turn to veteran, Rickie Lambert. His rise from the old third division to two goals in two games for England may attract every footballing cliché about “journeymen”, “fairytales”, and “rags to riches”, but it gives Hodgson a targetman in the mould (though nowhere near the same class) as the likes of Zlatan and Cavani. Though against limited opposition, Lambert's contributions, thus far, have shown he offers far more than just enthusiasm.

So with one striker in form and raring to go, and a triplet of quality options to return, Hodgson has no need to worry about strikers. He should be more concerned with ensuring the sort of defensive lapses that went unpunished against Moldova do not resurface against better teams. Then of course, there's that whole malarkey about failing to keep possession against any team ranked in the top 100.

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Topics:
Daniel Sturridge
England Football
Football
Rickie Lambert
Danny Welbeck
World Cup

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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