England’s best forwards for a generation? How the English striker is flourishing again in the Premier League

Gareth Southgate saw Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Danny Ings open their England accounts in the win over Wales, bolstering his striker options even more. Find out why this is boom time for the English forward in the Premier League...

England strikers have made a strong start to the season with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Harry Kane and Danny Ings impressing
Image: Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Harry Kane and Danny Ings are among England's options

Dominic Calvert-Lewin marked his debut appearance with a goal, while Danny Ings also scored his first goal for his country with an acrobatic effort in England’s 3-0 win against Wales at Wembley.

It was not a surprise to see the pair score - both have been in excellent form in the Premier League. Nor will it be a shock if they make way for England captain Harry Kane for the Nations League clash with Belgium at the weekend. Gareth Southgate has an abundance of options right now.

English forwards have been one of the stories of the Premier League season so far - and not just those who have joined up with the squad.

Alongside Calvert-Lewin, Leeds' Patrick Bamford was one of only two other players to score in each of his team's first three matches of the campaign.

Ollie Watkins, of course, scored a memorable hat-trick for Aston Villa in their 7-2 win over Liverpool - his first three goals in top-flight football. Include Jamie Vardy, in international retirement but last season's Premier League golden boot winner, and this is boom time for the English centre-forward.

In total, there have been 37 Premier League goals scored by English forwards so far this season. It is some number after just four rounds of games. Indeed, it is a dozen more than in any season during the previous decade and more than three times as many as were scored by English forwards at the same stage between 2012 and 2014.

Such is the astonishing goal glut of late that more goals had been scored by English forwards as of the first week of October than in seven of the previous eight seasons - and that despite the fact that the current campaign kicked off a full month later than is usual. Something is happening here.

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Many reasons have been floated to explain the sheer volume of goals going in. Fatigue, both mental and physical could be a factor. The lack of pre-season means teams might not be so well drilled. Perhaps even the absence of crowds and the urgency this brings has contributed to slacker defending. It seems that everything is combining to make life that little bit easier for Premier League forwards.

But the current situation with coronavirus does not fully explain the success of English forwards. It is not just that more goals are being scored but more of those goals are being scored by Englishmen.

Forty-three per cent of the Premier League goals scored by forwards this season have been by English players. That is a higher percentage than in any season of the previous decade.

Though the number had been steady at around 30 per cent for much of the past 10 years, the next best proportion in that period came just last season. As a result, this can now be called a trend.

How Southgate's predecessors must look on in envy at the England manager's current situation. He has the luxury of leaving out some of the most in-form strikers in the Premier League - not to mention the fact that he can be so relaxed about the unavailability of the evergreen Vardy.

It was not always this way.

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Next month marks a decade since Fabio Capello called up Jay Bothroyd to his England squad for a friendly against France. Turning to a 29-year-old striker from the Championship with only three top-flight goals to his name might have been regarded as a left-field choice but options were scarce.

Bothroyd's hot streak had seen him score 15 goals in 17 games prior to what was to become his solitary England appearance. He had not done it at the highest level - and never would - but the reality is that few of his compatriots were at the time. This was a low point for the English striker.

Capello took four forwards to the 2010 World Cup - Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and Emile Heskey. In the subsequent season in which Bothroyd was awarded his cap Rooney scored only 11 Premier League goals but even that was as many as the other three managed between them.

There were 14 English forwards named in Premier League starting line-ups on the opening weekend of that 2010/11 season. Four of them scored. One was Rooney and another was Darren Bent - from the penalty spot. The only others to score were Brett Ormerod and Marlon Harewood for Blackpool.

It was another Blackpool player, DJ Campbell, who would become one of only three English forwards - alongside Rooney and Bent - to reach double figures in the Premier League that season.

All of which helps to illustrate the paucity of choice in the past.

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As recently as 2018, Southgate went to the World Cup in Russia with Danny Welbeck as the top England goalscorer in the squad on the back of a season in which he had scored only five Premier League goals for Arsenal. Marcus Rashford was there after netting seven for Manchester United.

The context here was that the only two English players to reach double figures for goals that Premier League season and not in his squad were the already retired Rooney and then 34-year-old Brighton striker Glenn Murray.

Three years on and expect the situation to be rather different come the summer of 2021.

There is every likelihood that some of the most famous clubs in the land are building their plans around an English forward. Everton have Calvert-Lewin, Leeds have Bamford and Aston Villa have Watkins. At Newcastle, there's Callum Wilson, while West Ham's Michail Antonio is in form.

Last season was the first time in almost two decades that 10 English forwards reached double figures in a Premier League season. Add in Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Tammy Abraham, Mason Greenwood, Rashford, Ings and more, and that number could be topped this time around.

There are going to be some frustrated players when the squads are announced.

It harks back to Southgate's own playing days when Terry Venables picked the top four English scorers in the Premier League in his Euro '96 squad. Alan Shearer, Robbie Fowler, Les Ferdinand and Teddy Sheringham made it on merit but others could still consider themselves unfortunate.

Venables omitted a host of names who also hit double figures that season. A list that included Ian Wright, Stan Collymore and Dion Dublin. One that also featured Andy Cole and Paul Scholes, then playing in a more advanced role, as well as the experienced David Hirst and Tony Cottee.

It was no surprise for Cottee, well down the pecking order by that stage in his career. But this was a player who scored 57 top-flight goals before his 21st birthday, including 20 in the 1985/86 season and still did not make that summer's World Cup squad. He had scored more than 100 goals in English football's top division before he was given his first senior start for his country. It was to prove his last.

"It was just one of those periods," Cottee told Sky Sports not too long ago. "Gary Lineker and Peter Beardsley were fantastic in the World Cup in Mexico and if they were fit they played. It was an era when there were only two substitutes and there were some fantastic strikers like Clive Allen, Kerry Dixon and Mark Hateley who were scoring goals. There was John Barnes and Chris Waddle.

"You were trying to pick four strikers on form from a choice of 10. Nowadays if you are scoring goals and you stay fit then you are going to be in the England squad. It is a little easier to get caps."

For a long time, that was true.

There are signs that things are changing.

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