Harry Kane was instrumental to the success that the Three Lions enjoyed at the 2018 World Cup and whilst some people want to belittle his Golden Boot due to the nature of his goals, he’s only the second Englishman ever to win one after Gary Lineker in 1986. Kane’s Spurs’ future may be up in air but his place as England’s frontman couldn’t be anymore secure, he is the first name on the team-sheet bar none as captain. However, the players joining him in the attacking section of the pitch are unbeknownst to anyone really. Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish are the names in the mix, but who will Southgate select on the flanks? Here are my ratings of how likely there are to play and how much they deserve to play combined…
Phil Foden- 8/10
Going in alphabetical order, the first man in question is Manchester City youngster Phil Foden. The lifeblood of this squad is in the youth and Foden is at the fore of this, having just turned twenty-one he has three Premier League titles, an FA Cup and many other honours to his name already. Pep Guardiola is always very specific about who he acquires to play for him making Foden’s rise to prominence all the more impressive given that he’s a boyhood Man City fan who came up through the ranks. We have seen Foden, especially this season, be pushed forward from midfield and into that wide left position under Pep, partly because they’ve often played without a recognised striker. He is shown time-and-time again that age is just a number and his constant desire to drive forward is a huge asset, I would personally start him to the left of Kane.
Jack Grealish- 7/10
Next is Jack Grealish, who may have the stature of his club side counting against him, although he’s proved that to be irrelevant on countless occasions. Many love to point the Villa man’s constant diving but whether they’re soft fouls or not, the stats are there for all to see regarding him getting kicked left, right and centre. This was apparent again earlier this week when England faced Austria at the Riverside, it was quite a stale game from Southgate’s side with Grealish being one of the few players to come out of it with credit. There was a question about whether he could deliver in a side that doesn’t revolve around him but his six caps to date have all debunked that myth. The attacking third is where England will thrive this summer given their wealth of talent but it seems unlikely that Grealish would start in the same side as Foden given that there are certain similarities in the pair’s games. It feels harsh to have him on the bench but I think personally that Foden can gel more with the likes of Mount, Rice and Kane around him.
Marcus Rashford- 5/10
Going on from a pair who are relatively untested for their national team to Marcus Rashford, a man with forty caps and Southgate’s full-backing powering him into this tournament. If Euro 2020 went ahead in the year that it was supposed to, I think it would be almost inconceivable to have anyone other than Rashford and Raheem Sterling either side of Harry Kane. A lot can change in a year though and whilst Rashford has been harshly judged this season in my eyes, it would be a stretch to compare his performances to that of Grealish and Foden. 20 goal contributions in 37 games certainly isn’t anything to be smirked at but with only four goals since the turn of the year, it would appear his form has tailed off slightly. I think Rashford could offer a great option off of the bench but there is no placing in the starting XI for the Manchester United forward.
Jadon Sancho- 9/10
Joining Kane and Foden in my ideal front three is one of the few players in this squad that play away from English shores, it is of course Jadon Sancho. There is a certain bias towards Premier League players from ardent fans of the league which is understandable because they watch the names in question week-in, week-out, but Jadon Sancho brings something unique to the side. Not only is he the only name in question that favours the right-hand-side of a frontline but he is also a combination of some of the others’ selling points. He enjoys driving forward like Foden, he thrives when dribbling out-wide and centrally like Grealish and he is also much faster than the aforementioned pair, similarly to someone such as Marcus Rashford. Sancho spent a few months on the sidelines earlier this year and Dortmund quickly felt his absence; a drop in results and performances being clear for all to see. His dynamic relationship with Erling Haaland is something that could be replicated with Kane even though the two strikers play a different game and I think it would be an oversight to leave him on the bench at the Euros!
Raheem Sterling- 4/10
Finally going back to the blue half of Manchester where we started and if Rashford has had his doubters this season then Raheem Sterling has been absolutely hounded. It seemed Pep had worked wonders with Sterling and changed people’s perception of him, the final result being a world-class winger who provides the end product. In late January and early February he was contributing regularly but in general it’s been a poor season for the twenty-six-year-old, he is in fact the oldest of the forwards in question which brings further worry into his path. Like Rashford, Sterling has the tournament experience and full trust of Southgate to boast over his younger counterparts but given how often the England manager has stressed the importance of form for his selections, Sterling seems the least likely to find a place in the starting XI.
In conclusion then, whilst Harry Kane is the second-best striker in the world behind only Robert Lewandowski, and he has shown to be much more than just a goalscorer, he will need attacking impetus from those around him if Gareth Southgate’s England are to match or better the Russia World Cup. We are blessed in that third of the field so Kane’s partners are by no means a foregone conclusion. Sancho and Foden are the two for me but if Grealish was to be chosen over the latter, that would be perfectly acceptable too.