Austin, Carroll and Kane press winter claims for England inclusion
Every time some organisation commissions a study of Premier League footballers, talk about a paucity of English options is usually among the conclusions.
Has the influx of foreign talent, which undoubtedly improves the product we watch and bet on, hurt our own national game? That’s a debate for another day.
Christmas is a reflective time of year, and this got Coral’s football experts thinking about which English players are ending 2014 on a high?
Three very different strikers spring to mind and, although the Three Lions next play internationals in March (Lithuania at home in a qualifier followed by a friendly in Italy), Roy Hodgson must keep on the lookout for attacking options.
He needs to mark the winter form of his eligible players closely, because Liverpool pair Rickie Lambert and Daniel Sturridge are on the fringe and injured at Anfield respectively. Uncapped Burundi-born Saido Berahino, meanwhile, has gone off the boil at West Bromwich Albion, failing to score since getting his first senior call-up.
That rather worryingly just leaves national captain Wayne Rooney and ex-Manchester United teammate Danny Welbeck, now with Arsenal, as options for England as we head into the New Year. Fear not Hodgson, as there are other in-form players worth running the rule over or recalling.
His is a similar story to Lambert. Plucked from non-league by Swindon Town, Austin became a scoring sensation down south before being bought by Burnley, then in the Championship.
Harry Redknapp then identified Austin in the summer of 2013 as the man to fire his QPR side straight back into the Premier League. The Hoops had to settle for promotion via the play-offs, but got up largely thanks to 20 goals in all competitions from him.
Turning 25 before his first crack at Premier League football, Austin has impressed in the top flight. He is the leading English scorer in the division with 11 (from 15 games), which includes nine in his last eight and he hit a hat-trick as QPR beat relegation rivals West Brom 3-2 last time out.
Austin is netting all types of goals; dead ball situations and set pieces, headers, poachers’ finishes. Having proven he can do it in the Premier League, surely Hodgson will run the rule over him in the spring.
On standby for the World Cup this past summer, West Ham United target man Carroll may benefit from not being tarred with the failure brush from Brazil. Staying fit has been a major problem for him in recent seasons, however.
Carroll, who turns 26 in the New Year, made a real difference in the Hammers’ last televised outing, a 3-1 win over fellow top half hopefuls Swansea City. That encounter was billed as a battle between the striker West Ham boss Sam Allardyce signed and one he could’ve done instead in Wilfried Bony.
Not only did Carroll outscore the Ivorian at Upton Park, but he followed it up by netting again in the next Hammers home game against Leicester City. That means he has three in as many matches and in six starts since returning from injury.
Should Carroll maintain both form and fitness, he must be a certainty to replace Lambert on the Three Lions roster and add to nine caps and two international goals.
The old saying goes don’t send a boy to do a man’s job, so Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado should really both take a long, hard look at themselves.
It’s not these established Spurs strikers that are doing the damage at White Hart Lane for Mauricio Pochettino this term, but England Under-21 international Kane.
By grabbing goals in three consecutive games in league and cup, the 21-year-old has taken his total tally across all competitions to 13 in 22 outings.
At his best starting from deep, Kane juxtaposes nicely with all-round scoring threat Austin or physical presence Carroll. His contribution to a prolific strike partnership with Berahino for Gareth Southgate’s Under-21s gives him cause for optimism about the future.
Punters can expect to see that pairing reprised at the European youth finals in the Czech Republic this coming summer. Hodgson might want to consider bringing Kane, 21, into the senior set-up this spring first, though.
England are 12/1 chances to win Euro 2016, which makes them joint-fourth favourites with upcoming friendly opponents Italy and a brilliant Belgium team that reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup.