England: Strikers keen to challenge Harry Kane at Qatar World Cup

Callum Wilson opened the scoring for Newcastle in their 4-1 win over Fulham at the weekend.

With just over a month until England’s opening World Cup group game against Iran, Gareth Southgate is close to naming his squad for the tournament.

The Three Lions boss is set to pick his provisional squad later this month with several big dilemmas – including who to start in attack alongside Harry Kane.

Kane is a player to start, providing fitness as he looks for the two goals he needs to equal Wayne Rooney’s record goalscorer for the 53-man national team.

However, there are a number of strikers vying for a place behind him, with two of them – Ivan Toney and Callum Wilson – coming up against each other on Saturday as Newcastle entertain Brentford in the Premier League.

BBC Sport takes a look at the four main contenders to be Kane’s back-up and whether they could be the right fit.

Callum Wilson – “I’m On A Plane”

Callum Wilson
Wilson has one goal in four appearances for England but has not played for his country since 2019

Despite missing five games with a hamstring problem, Newcastle’s Callum Wilson has scored three Premier League goals this season, including in both of the club’s league wins. He returned for the win against Fulham on Saturday and should have plenty of time to get on the plane.

Speaking on the Footballer’s Football Podcast in August, Wilson said: “You’ve got Harry Kane. Behind Harry Kane, you’ve got myself, Tammy Abraham is also doing well. You’ve got Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings, who are also the I’m doing well.

“I’m on the plane, Harry Kane is on the plane. There will be players traveling to the World Cup who won’t make the September squad. There’s always one or two players who come out of nowhere.”

Despite his lack of action throughout 2022, thanks in part to a calf injury that kept him out from December to April, his minutes-to-goals ratio of 103 ranks as the highest on this list, as does shot conversion rate of 26.32%. .

Wilson, who has four caps – none since 2019 – would offer something different to Kane’s preference for dropping deep. He had just 12 touches in 66 minutes at Craven Cottage, with five coming in the box.

Ivan Toney – “He’s Got a Burning Ambition”

Ivan Toney
Toney has scored 17 goals in 40 Premier League games for Brentford

Ivan Toney’s call-up headlined the latest international break, but he did not play against Italy or Germany, meaning he will be without a side if he goes to Qatar.

Speaking at his press conference following his inclusion earlier this month, Toney said he never doubted his inclusion, which came at the age of 26 and after leaving Newcastle and rebuilding his career at Peterborough in 2018 before moving to the Bees a year later.

“If you manifest it, you always have a great chance of doing it. Wherever I’ve been – whether I’ve been on loan here, there and everywhere, I’ve always believed in myself that one day I’d be a Premier League player.” he said.

League statistics in 2022 Callum Wilson Ivan Toney Dominic Calvert-Lewin Tammy Abraham
Games played 7 25 14 27
Goals scored 5 13 2 13
Minutes per goal 103 168 519 168
Shots on goal 9 6 22 33
Shooting accuracy (%) 52.94 40 37.5 57.89

“Now I’m a Premier League player and an England international.”

Peterborough director of football Barry Fry has predicted his rise as he broke the Championship goalscoring record for a season with 31 goals in 2020/21. That accolade has since been taken by Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic.

“He has a burning ambition to become the best centre-forward in the Premier League.” Fry told BBC Sport. “He’s going to be a Golden Boot winner in a couple of years in my opinion.”

Toney has taken five penalties this season, with an overall record of 24 successful spots and one missed. That’s exactly the kind of statistic that will pique Southgate’s interest.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin – “He’s a complete striker”

Dominic Calvert-Lewin
Calvert-Lewin is yet to play in the Premier League this season

Like Wilson, injuries hampered Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s progress for some time. He made just 17 Premier League appearances last season, scoring five goals, which many believe played a big part in Everton’s flirtation with relegation.

He is yet to feature this campaign and his lack of action has likely put him at a disadvantage when it comes to making this team.

But having made the squad for Euro 2020 last summer, the 25-year-old is the only one of the four with senior tournament experience.

Former Brighton striker Glenn Murray described on BBC Radio 5 Live why he is so little when fit.

“Calvert-Lewin is a pretty complete forward,” Murray said “He’s a big lad, he’s dominant in the air, he can hold it up, but he’s also very agile and can run channels quite comfortably.

“Those types of strikers in this modern game are so hard to find. You’re talking about a different class and teams like Everton have no substitute for that quality.”

Tammy Abraham – “I never lack confidence”

Tammy Abraham
Tammy Abraham made his England debut while on loan at Swansea from Chelsea in 2017

Tammy Abraham certainly has the stats to back up his claim to join Kane on the plane.

The 25-year-old moved to Roma last summer to link up with Jose Mourinho and his game has developed immensely since leaving Chelsea.

He scored 17 goals in Serie A in 2021-22, making him the most prolific Englishman in the league’s history and admitted in April that the move had given his career a new boost.

The current season sees him with two goals from seven Serie A starts.

“To do what I’m doing now for a big club like Roma, I can’t really describe the feeling,” he said.

“To come off the back of a difficult season at Chelsea, where I wasn’t really playing games, to come here and shine again is like a dream come true.

“I’ve always been a player who never lacks confidence. From a young age I always scored goals and wanted to win. Even when I score in training I celebrate like it’s a match.”

Both he and Toney have 13 league goals in 2022 – the most of the four under review – while his England record is identical to Calvert-Lewin’s.

Abraham has the best shooting accuracy with 57.89%. He hasn’t had enough international success yet, but he’s fit, firing and proving himself at a high level.

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