International Ambitions

England may have qualified for the European Championships with an uneasy point in Montenegro, but the majority of newspaper column inches have been devoted to Rooney’s red card, and the subsequent gap that it leaves in the England line up.

With so many English forwards vying for the position, and no immediate outstanding candidates, a couple of players who have no doubt been catching the eye of all you armchair managers (let’s face it, free Fantasy Football from the likes of Sky has got to the stage of convincing most of us we should really be a shoe-in when Capello stands down) might just end up being the prime contenders.

The first, and probably most likely, is the upcoming Manchester United striker, Danny Welbeck. Capello is a known admirer of the quick forward, and his performances of the U21s have been impressive. After a promising season on loan at Sunderland, Welbeck has been given his chance by Sir Alex Ferguson and has taken it with both hands, scoring three goals, making one assist, and securing one MOTM in just five appearances. Welbeck also has the distinction of being one of the most transferred players in the Fantasy Football League, as managers all over the country take note of his fine form.

Welbeck also has the advantage of fitting into England’s current setup. Ashley Young looks like a certainty, but Walcott hasn’t been overwhelming, and with Rooney absent, there’s certainly space for someone to force their way into the reckoning.

Aside from the usual candidates: Carroll, Zamora, and Bent (who is probably the most likely to start up front having scored again in Montenegro) an outside candidate is another Fulham striker, Andy Johnson.

Johnson has recently been in fantastic form, both in Europe and in the Premier League and is returning to the kind of form that saw him become the top Premier League goal scorer in 2004/05. Having been plagued by injuries and having lost a little bit of his searing pace he’s now a smarter player, and a good run of fitness has seen the goals fly in from all sorts of angles.

With 8 England caps under his belt he’s no stranger to the international scene, and his clever movement could work very well in partnership with the likes of Young and Walcott. That said, the first challenge is to stay fit throughout the season and continue to find the back of the net, but if Fulham can put a run together in Europe or a Cup and stay out of trouble in the league, Johnson may yet find himself in the England squad at the crunch end of the season.

All of that is a long way off yet, though, and there are at least four friendlies to be played between now and the end of the season that will give us a much clearer idea of Capello’s plans. The competition between the players for those precious forward spots looks set to be a theme that runs throughout the rest of the season.