There was a time when England possessed an absolute embarrassment of riches in the centre-forward department.
Nowadays, the pool of strikers at Gareth Southgate’s disposal isn’t as deep as it once was, but that’s not to say there aren’t some quality operators vying for a place in the Three Lions squad.
Here’s the options at England’s disposal on the road to Euro 2024.
The Everton forward had a very good chance of being an option chosen by Southgate for the 2022 World Cup but injuries meant he couldn’t put together an impressive enough run of form.
Calvert-Lewin’s fitness remains uncertain, nudging him down the list of striking candidates.
To put into context how long ago Dominic Solanke’s England debut was, he replaced Jamie Vardy. Across the subsequent six years, Solanke has not returned to Southgate’s plans but may have nudged his name into the conversation at least.
It took Solanke just 12 games of the new season to match his entire Premier League goal tally (six) from the previous campaign. Thriving at the sharp end of Andoni Iraola’s high-pressing Bournemouth team, Solanke’s newfound end-product is underpinned by boundless energy.
Ivan Toney claimed that the FA’s betting probe was timed to prevent him from joining Southgate’s World Cup squad. “Someone was out to get me,” he insisted.
The Brentford striker was only outscored by Harry Kane and Erling Haaland in the Premier League last season. Yet, he will only be available from January 2024 onwards. If Toney is looking for past precedent, Paolo Rossi famously returned from a two-year ban on the eve of the 1982 World Cup and fired Italy to the title.
For all of Toney’s abundant talent, it’s unlikely that Southgate – a naturally risk-averse manager – will take the same gamble as Enzo Bearzot.
Eddie Nketiah’s status as the all-time leading scorer for England‘s Under-21s doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. While the likes of Alan Shearer (13) and Frank Lampard (nine) blossomed into seasoned senior internationals, Francis Jeffers and Saido Berahino both broke double digits at youth level.
A traditional penalty-box poacher, Nketiah has clear limitations but hasn’t looked entirely out of place while regularly filling in for Arsenal’s injury-prone Gabriel Jesus.
A perennial injury concern, Callum Wilson’s rotation with Alexander Isak at Newcastle United ensures that the prolific centre-forward isn’t overworked at club level.
Kane’s understudy at the Qatar World Cup has done nothing to harm his chances of reprising the role in Germany this summer. Although he may have been demoted to third fiddle.
It seems ridiculous to think that just five years ago Watkins was playing in England’s fourth tier.
The Aston Villa man has moved through the divisions with ease and still hasn’t found his ceiling as Unai Emery leads the sleeping Midlands giants into European competition.
Earlier this year, Watkins fretted: “I think I go under the radar, maybe. I don’t know if I’m not talked about enough, profile-wise.” If he continues to shine at club level, Watkins’ name will be on Southgate’s lips this summer.
Now we get to the player so far clear of the rest of his competitors that it’s a little bit ridiculous.
As his Bayern Munich manager Thomas Tuchel is so keen to point out, Kane is England’s captain and entirely undroppable.
The nation’s all-time top scorer and will add many more goals to his tally if he stays fit.