With Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge unavailable for England’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers, Rickie Lambert has been selected to lead the line for the Three Lions in tonight’s clash with Moldova. The Southampton forward’s inclusion is an outstanding achievement for the striker personally, but also exposes the lack of options that Roy Hosgson has at his disposal in attack.
Firstly, it should be clarified that this article is in no way a slight against Lambert – he is fully worthy of his place in the England set-up. The 31-year-old targetman has forged a career of consistently hitting the back of the net in the lower leagues and proved himself as good enough to feature in the Premier League last term with an impressive return of 15 goals in his debut campaign in the top flight for Southampton.
With Jermain Defoe not first choice at Tottenham, Hodgson has selected the correct partner for Danny Welbeck in the game against Moldova. Lambert’s fairy tale story should be an inspiration to fellow professionals and young aspiring footballers that with hard work and consistent performances, there is reward at the end of the tunnel.
However, with a World Cup less than 12 months away, the selection of a competitive international fixture debutant at the age of 31 in the qualifier is not a positive move. New FA chairman Greg Dyke has been full of promising comments over the future of English football, but there needs to be considerable changes in the structure of the domestic game for his thoughts to come to anywhere close to fruition.
In the ever-increasing competitive nature of the Premier League, the number of English forwards available for Hodgson to select from is extremely limited. With all 20 clubs in the division looking for forwards to fire them to success, the trend of looking overseas has become much more prevalent in recent seasons.
Realistically, Hodgson’s only options in attack for the World Cup, should England qualify, will be Rooney, Welbeck, Sturridge, Defoe, Lambert and Andy Carroll. There are a handful of other English forwards competing for a starting berth in the lower echelons of the division, but the chance of a new attacking star being unearthed this season seems minimal.
Of these six, the first three fight for a place in top-eight sides, Defoe will most likely be bench-warming for the bulk of the campaign at White Hart Lane and Lambert has very little experience at that level, and will be 32 come the time the tournament starts. Carroll has been forced to leave Liverpool to get first-team football at West Ham.
These striking options are limited in comparison to some of the other leading nations in the hunt for the World Cup latter stages. As has happened at the moment, injury or unavailability of one or two attackers leaves England’s forward line looking ordinary by international standards.
If Dyke is serious about England competing to win major tournaments in the next decade, wholesale changes need to be made in the Premier League. There needs to be a quota system introduced to allow more playing time for home-grown talent. The problem is that this would limit the amount of foreign stars coming to English shores and potentially drop the standard of the domestic league - but it would improve the national team. At the moment the Premier League has priority.
image: © geetarchurchy