Let me begin by saying that the point of this article is not to say that Grant Holt is a bad player. He is an old fashioned target man, more than capable of giving most defenders a hard time, and never shying away from a challenge. Since he joined Shrewsbury in 2008, he’s scored goals at a consistent rate, with totals of 28, 30 and 23 before playing in the Premier League for the first time this season with Norwich.
And for a player having his first season in the English top flight as a 30 year old, he’s had a great season. To this point, he’s scored 13 goals in 29 league appearances, with 15 goals in total. He’s scored Norwich’s only goal in draws away to Liverpool and Everton, as well as scoring against Chelsea and Manchester United. His form has been so good in fact, that he’s now being touted as a candidate for England’s Euro 2012 squad. And it’s this that leads me to write this article.
Because Grant Holt being touted for an England call up really highlights how shallow the talent pool is for the English national team, and shows why whoever takes England to this summer’s finals as manager will not have a squad capable of winning the tournament. While (as usual) the English media has proclaimed England’s group of France, Sweden and Ukraine to be a ‘relatively easy’ draw, they will be without Wayne Rooney for the first two games, against France and Sweden, and Rooney’s absence again shows the lack of depth England have.
Rooney is the top scoring English striker in the Premier League with 22 goals, with Holt’s 13 being the second highest. After Holt, Jermaine Defoe, Danny Graham and Daniel Sturridge have scored 10 goals each, while Darren Bent and Peter Crouch both have 9 for the season. Darren Bent suffered ruptured ankle ligaments at the end of February, and will struggle to be fit for the Euros. Danny Graham has also enjoyed an impressive first season in the Premier League with Swansea, and scored a winner against Arsenal, but would be a long shot to be included in the Euro squad.
Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe have 37 goals and almost 90 caps between them for the national team, but neither has enjoyed prolific seasons. Defoe has struggled to hold down a place in the Spurs team, while Crouch has yet to find consistent form with Stoke, although he does have 5 goals in his last 9 games. Defoe is almost certain to be included in the England squad, while Daniel Sturridge has enjoyed his best season for Chelsea and remains a strong candidate to be included, despite scoring just two goals in 2012.
Elsewhere, strikers like Bobby Zamora, Danny Welbeck, Andy Carroll, Andy Johnson, Gabriel Agbonlahor, and Emile Heskey have all been capped in the past, but none of them have had particularly impressive seasons so far. And that’s why Grant Holt is being touted for an England call up, because he’s the one English striker other than Wayne Rooney who is playing at his absolute best.
England have always had a fascination with bringing at least one tall target man to the finals of World Cups or European Championships, with Peter Crouch or Emile Heskey usually being that man. Andy Carroll should be the next man to fill that role, but he’s had a horrific time since moving to Liverpool, and bar a prolific end to the season, he is unlikely to be considered for the Euros 23. So Grant Holt seems to be the best candidate to go to the Euros as that target man, but is he really good enough?
He’s enjoyed a strong debut season in the Premier League, but it’s hard to see Holt troubling the best defences at the Euros. Spain, Germany and Holland should be the favourites for the tournament, and you can’t imagine Holt giving any of them a tough time. The drop off in quality after Wayne Rooney is dramatic for England, and it’s possible that they could be out of the tournament before he even gets on the pitch, if results against France and Sweden don’t go their way.
The Premier League may be touted as the best league in the world, but when it comes to English strikers in the English top flight, the quality just isn’t there.
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