Graham Ruthven: Wilson could be the Kane deputy that England needs

With Harry Kane being undoubtedly England’s first choice, but the race to back him up is wide open for Callum Wilson to capitalise on…


Harry Kane’s World Cup Golden Boot was the only tangible reward England received for their resurgence over the summer.

It was a sign of the level Gareth Southgate’s side had played at in Russia, with only Belgium, France and Croatia scoring more than three Three Lions, but as an individual award it was something of a contradiction.

Top scorer, he may have been, but Kane wasn’t at his best at the World Cup. He denied injuries were a factor, but the Spurs striker looked off the pace, immobile at times.

It was a mark of his quality and efficiency in front of goal that he managed to find the net as often as he did.

In truth, Kane still hasn’t rediscovered his best form this season either.

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This is becoming an issue for England. Southgate has a number of options to pick from in the final third, with Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho all capable of playing behind the central striker, but when it comes to an able deputy for Kane, there hasn’t been anyone.

Some will argue that Southgate should have made better use of Jamie Vardy, a proven goalscorer who would have given England something different. That argument is now irrelevant, though, with the Leicester City man now retired from the international game.

Beyond Kane, England’s lack of frontmen to lead the line has been exacerbated further.

Enter Callum Wilson. Only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Anthony Martial have scored more Premier League goals than the Bournemouth striker since the start of October, earning him a call up to Southgate’s England squad for the upcoming matches against the USA and Croatia.

Were it not for the return of another goalscorer to the national team, Wilson’s rise might have been this week’s hot topic.

Wilson is very much in the mould of the modern England player. Like so many in Southgate’s squad, the 26-year-old has scrapped his way through the English league system, clawing his way up the pyramid through spells at Coventry City, Kettering Town and Tamworth.

“It showed me that I did not want to be at that level throughout my career. I wanted to make more of myself,” Wilson said this week. His story isn’t quite as rousing as Vardy’s, but it isn’t far off.

Were it not for injuries, Wilson might have been brought into the England fold long before now.

Now fully fit, he is firing on all cylinders and has marked himself out this season as one of the best out-and-out centre forwards in the Premier League.

Described as a bottom half Robert Lewandowski, Wilson is the complete striker capable of leading the line as a lone frontman or playing alongside a partner.

He is the Kane deputy England are desperate for. Wilson is quick, strong, intelligent and confident, demonstrated by the way he is converting chances for Bournemouth this season.

The 26-year-old is, in many ways, the epitome of what it takes to be an England international under Southgate in 2018. He should look the part should he feature against the USA and Croatia.

The World Cup was a great success for England, but nonetheless, this is a transitional period for the Three Lions. Southgate noted after the semi-final defeat to Croatia the next steps that England must take, with the lack of a true number 10, someone in the mould of Mesut Ozil or David Silva, highlighted as a deficiency. Hopes are pinned on Phil Foden and James Maddison to address this.

The lack of depth behind Kane is another deficiency that must be addressed.

Wilson’s run of goalscoring form comes at the right time for England, with 18 months on the clock for the Bournemouth striker to prove himself as good enough for the Euros. Now, when Kane is struggling, or injured, Southgate has a bottom six Lewandowski to call upon.

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