Top strikers are increasingly difficult to find

Trevor Steven
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ENGLAND’S current striking injury crisis has only served to highlight the shortage of international-class attacking talent at manager Roy Hodgson’s disposal, beyond the four or five established names.

Daniel Sturridge’s ankle knock saw him join Danny Welbeck and Andy Carroll on the treatment table while Jermain Defoe is struggling with a heel problem, leaving Wayne Rooney the only fit forward that travelled to Brazil yesterday.

Were so many men sidelined for a World Cup qualifier, rather than Sunday’s end-of-season friendly, Hodgson might face calls to cast his net wider and hand a chance to less recognised names.

But the uncomfortable truth is that there are very few English strikers of requisite quality playing regular Premier League football, and Hodgson will be mindful of not lowering the squad’s standard by calling on someone for one cap.

Good though his record is, Peter Crouch looks on the way down; Darren Bent is not good enough for the top level, in my opinion; and Gabriel Agbonlahor has shown promise but is far too inconsistent.

The talent shortage is a direct consequence of the number of imports in our top flight, which mean that youngsters are finding it more difficult to graduate from academy level to cutting their teeth in the first team.

It has to be said that Hodgson is unfortunate to have so many potential members of his starting XI stricken at once, and that, when all are fit, he has a frontline capable of getting England winning again.

I see Welbeck as a key player in the future. He can play wide left very well, as he often has for Manchester United, but I’d like to see him through the middle, where his pace can stretch defences.

Sturridge, too, is a good young talent, and able to play either centrally or wide. Ideally I can see him on the left and Theo Walcott on the opposite flank, with Rooney playing behind Welbeck.

Rooney is also versatile in that he can operate either as a centre-forward or dropping off, which he does naturally. Perhaps with more club time as a striker he could fulfil that role for England regularly too.

Carroll, meanwhile, is a solid Plan B. He has had a relatively good season and, while not polished enough to be a regular England starter, is a great option from the bench.

For Sunday though, should the match go ahead, I’d be tempted to try Walcott through the middle. He wants to be a striker but does not play there for Arsenal – this fixture seems an ideal moment to give him an audition.

Walcott has grown as a player and improved his efficiency in front of goal, weighing in with some important strikes this season, and if it’s not working he can always be switched back to the right.

Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who now works as a media commentator.