As football formations have changed, so too has the number of squad personnel required to fill each area on the field.
As clubs and national sides have moved towards systems that deploy a solitary striker – for the most part anyway – there is less of a need for more than three or four marksmen in any given squad.
The senior England men’s national team is one such example of this and, with three of the four striking squad positions for the 2018 World Cup expected to be taken up by Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge, which other star should make up the numbers on the plane?
According to a recently conducted 90min poll, there’s only one outright winner for most England fans.
Far and away in front of his competitors is Manchester United wonderkid Marcus Rashford. The 19-year-old is viewed as one of the most gifted footballers to emerge in English football for a generation, and the manner in which he has take to first-team football has been nothing short of extraordinary.
Rashford has, naturally, struggled for game time this season at Old Trafford following the arrival of world-class forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and his goals tally and minutes on the pitch has taken a hit as a result.
That shouldn’t detract from the fact that Rashford’s ability to do the unexpected would be a welcome arrow in the quiver of Gareth Southgate’s England squad in Russia next summer. With lightning pace, a poacher’s eye for goal and his all-round maturity, Rashford would be a superb option for the Three Lions boss to have at the international tournament.
On the opposite side of the spectrum to Rashford – age wise at least – sees veteran frontman Jermain Defoe wiggle his way into second place in our poll.
At 34 years of age, Defoe is certainly in the twilight of his playing career. His goals-to-game ratio, however, is still impressive and the talismanic Sunderland striker is the only man standing between the Black Cats’ unlikely fight for survival and a surefire relegation to the Championship at the end of the season.
Defoe deservedly received a first England call up since 2013 for the March international fixtures, and duly repaid Southgate’s faith in him by notching in the 2-0 win over Lithuania last Sunday. If England are desperate for a goal during a match in Russia, there will be few who would argue against Defoe bagging it.
He’s out of favour at United, and now seemingly out of favour for the Three Lions too. Wayne Rooney, the longstanding England captain, lurches into third place with a paltry 14% of the total votes.
The 31-year-old has definitely seen better days, with Jose Mourinho and Southgate both overlooking the ex-Everton starlet this term thanks to a number of underwhelming performances.
Rumours of a Goodison Park return, or even a switch to America’s MLS, have been rife for months now and, with little in the way of game time if he stays with the Red Devils, Rooney’s place in England’s squad for the next World Cup is very much in jeopardy.
West Ham’s injury riddled Andy Carroll, who had been earmarked for an England recall by large swathes of the press, brings up the rear with a miserable 5%.
The towering forward will have to keep himself injury free and find the back of the net on a remarkably consistent basis if he is to force his way into the Three Lions’ squad for next summer’s trip to Russia – factors which are not looking particularly likely at this stage.
True, a raft of injuries to England’s other strikers would hand him a way back in from the cold but, given Carroll’s own tendency to end up on the treatment table, expect him to miss out.