Coming off the back of a successful 3-1 win over the United Arab Emirates, one thing that stood out with regards to the Team GB squad was the true lack of a potent up-and-coming marquee striker for England that is still young enough to play at U21 level (or below!) for their country.
Wayne Rooney burst onto the scene in a flash as a teenager…same with Jermain Defoe, Darren Bent, and Danny Welbeck. Granted times are changing, with players not getting their professional debuts until they are much older, but with Daniel Sturridge effectively competing for a Senior spot in England’s squads, it certainly leaves Stuart Pearce with little meat to pick from for his U21 squads.
So…what of England’s striking prospects?
Let’s go through the forwards who have been picked for the U21s since the last European Championship finals in 2011.
Nathaniel Delfouneso – His Aston Villa career has been fairly stop start. Loan moves and three managers later, he’s still looking to be ‘the one’ to lead the line for his boyhood team. Despite three goals at U21 level, he has never really been one to impress while on international duty.
William Keane – The brightest prospect on this entire list. Still just 19, he’s already made a brief substitute appearance for his parent club Manchester United, and has been absolutely deadly in front of goal at Reserve level. Another of the 2010 U17 Euro squad, Keane is yet to open up his U21 account (but has missed two sitters!). After tearing his ACL while on England U19 duty, he’s likely to miss the first half of the 2012/13 season. The hope is it won’t hamper his career moving forward, given the absolute promise he’s shown inside the 18 yard box for both club and country in the past 12 months.
Alex Nimely – Also eligible for Liberia (who he has played for repeatedly at U20 level), the Manchester City man is likely going to have to make the step down the league ladder in order to continue his footballing education. Two loans, 26 appearances, and just the solitary goal, he’s neither the saviour for Stuart Pearce’s side, nor going to be dancing into the Manchester City lineup anytime soon. Was called into Pearce’s November 2011 squad, but withdrew due to injury.
Danny Rose – Is not a forward. Don’t let Stu fool you.
Marvin Sordell – A late developer to the national setup, Sordell made a whopping 3 substitute appearances for Bolton Wanderers after his £3m move from Watford in January of this year. He played only 39 minutes in total in the Premier League. While Sordell grew into the UAE match before being withdrawn at half-time in favour of Danniel Sturridge, he certainly shows promise, but question marks longer over his capacity at the highest level for club, let alone country. Time, however, is on his side.
Martyn Waghorn – Impressed on his U21 debut (in 2011), scoring in the process. He doubled his tally in the following match as well. Season ended prematurely after a hamstring injury at the tail end of the year. Was unable to properly force himself back into club contention.
Connor Wickham – A typically English striker that arguably moved 2 years too early from Ipswich. Wickham has had his career hampered through minor injury and non-selection (at club level), and beyond that has not done too much on the pitch for the U21s at this point in time. Wickham certainly can’t rely on his winning goal at the 2010 U17 European Championship finals to get him into starting elevens. A loan move beckons, but at present, he’s certainly not shattering any goal scoring records.