When Gareth Southgate announced his England squad last week, he must have known it wouldn’t please everybody. Whilst every Three Lions selection contains a few contentious inclusions, a series of events left him with a real headache up front that could only be resolved by an inevitably controversial solution.
England’s strike-force was in fantastic shape before Euro 2016 but Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy have endured underwhelming campaigns since then, whilst captain Wayne Rooney and the Premier League’s second-top scorer Harry Kane were ruled out for the coming fixtures against Germany and Lithuania through injury.
Therefore, Southgate was forced to make some big calls and eventually opted for Vardy, Manchester United prodigy Marcus Rashford and Sunderland veteran Jermain Defoe. But according to Football FanCast’s exclusive poll, our England readers would have selected the Three Lions strike-force rather differently…
One of the few Southgate selections our readers actually agreed with, a free-scoring campaign has seen Jermain Defoe earn his first England call-up since 2013. Now aged 34, the Sunderland striker is enjoying an Indian summer – keeping his side’s survival hopes alive with 14 strikes for the Premier League’s bottom-placed side. He’s got the experience and ability required at international level and is now enjoying a level of form that made leaving him out impossible.
Southgate has already revealed he had a rather unpleasant telephone conversation with Theo Walcott, after informing the Arsenal striker he’d missed out on place in the latest squad on his 28th birthday. The 47-cap star was pretty miffed and our readers seemingly agree with him, voting Walcott to fourth in our poll. Admittedly, despite often dividing opinion, Walcott is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career with 17 goals across all competitions. His personal best is 21, which came during the 2012/13 campaign.
He may not be the most pleasing on the eye, but there’s no questioning how effective Andy Carroll can be when in top form. Towering, athletic, aggressive and imperious in the air, England don’t have another striker quite like the West Ham front-man, who has scored six goals in twelve Premier League starts this term despite a raft of injury problems. That may have put Southgate off involving the 28-year-old, but our readers clearly view him as an important, different kind of weapon in the England arsenal.
Danny Welbeck may struggle to convince as a natural goalscorer but he’s hit the onion bag three times in eight appearances since returning from injury in January – including a strike against Liverpool the weekend before last. Versatile, physical and energetic, he would have added a lot to Southgate’s attacking options and the scope to switch approach mid-match. But perhaps due to his injury problems, the 26-year-old missed on a place in England’s latest squad.
The only other forward who made both Southgate and our readers’ selected strike-forces, Marcus Rashford may have only scored seven times this season, including just three goals in the Premier League, but England fans seemingly still have high hopes for the 19-year-old, who was arguably the Man of the Match during Manchester United’s win over Middlesbrough on Sunday. Despite the lack of goals, Rashford has been a busy, industrious and inventive nuisance in the final third all season, showing he can make a difference both out wide and centrally.