This summer’s European Championship may still seem like a speck on the horizon but, for players hoping to gatecrash England’s squad for the tournament, the clock is ticking.
Places are up for grabs among the strikers, where the uncapped Danny Ings and Dominic Calvert-Lewin have played their way into competition with Tammy Abraham and Callum Wilson to be back-up to Harry Kane.
While Gareth Southgate has until 2 June to name his 23-man party, the next six weeks could go a long way to deciding who can look forward to taking part in Euro 2020 and who misses out.
If Southgate maintains the make-up of his last squad, he will take three out-and-out centre-forwards to the tournament, not including Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Assuming his recovery from injury stays on track, Harry Kane will get the first spot, and I think Abraham has matured to the point that he is nailed on for the second, fitness permitting.
That would leave a shoot-out between Southampton’s Ings, Calvert-Lewin of Everton and Bournemouth’s Wilson for the last place.
Both Ings and Calvert-Lewin are enjoying their best seasons in the Premier League, with 14 and 11 goals respectively – and none from the spot, unlike Rashford, who has seven penalties among his 14.
Ings’s strengths are his finishing, anticipation and hunger. After an injury-hit spell at Liverpool he is back at the levels he showed at Burnley.
He seems like a player who judges himself on his goal tally and it’s always great to have someone like that.
The downside is he’s not very quick. While sniffing out goals may work in the Premier League, especially against lesser sides, those chances don’t come up as much at international level, where pace is more important.
Calvert-Lewin’s big advantage is that he has been part of England’s age-group teams for years, even scoring the winning goal in the Under-20s’ World Cup triumph three years ago.
I’m sure Southgate will have been waiting for him to make the step up. This season he has done that and six goals in eight games have put him in the running – although no more than that at this stage.
The 22-year-old is a good size, very mobile and challenges for every ball. He likes to stay central, which suits the way the England coach wants to play as it leaves room for the wide forwards.
Wilson, meanwhile, has already impressed Southgate enough to win four caps but I think it would be a big call to pick him over two other strikers who are performing better and scoring more.
Ings and Calvert-Lewin would need to pass England auditions before the summer. The friendlies with Italy and Denmark late next month, when Kane and maybe Rashford will be missing, are ideal for that.
I make Calvert-Lewin slight favourite to take Wilson’s place but neither he nor Ings can afford a drought in the run-up to the next international break, when both could have a chance to get their nose in front.