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With Kane and Rashford both injury doubts - who can step to the fore for England at this summer’s European Championships?


It has become a recurring predicament for Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane: experience a slow start to the season throughout August, pick up form in Autumn and carry it into the festive period, then sustain an injury in the early part of the new year, missing months worth of action. It happened twice last season - once in January then again in April - and supplied ex-Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino with a huge selection headache, with a lack of backup options available to rely on up front. 

Kane missed a total of 17 games with severe ankle injuries last term, with wide men Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura tasked with leading the line for the north London side in his absence. The pair did a solid job, guiding Spurs to a 4th-place finish in the Premier League and through to the final of the Champions League, though hopes of a repeat performance this time around seems unlikely with Jose Mourinho’s side massively struggling for form and completely bereft of confidence. 

After finding the net 17 times in all competitions before the turn of the year, Kane’s season now appears to be over after the 26-year-old picked up another serious injury during the 1-0 defeat to Southampton on New Year’s Day. This time, though, it is a ruptured tendon in the forward’s left hamstring which seems like it will bring his campaign to a premature end. Kane will be a huge loss for Tottenham, who are already waywardly floating towards uncertainty with precisely no direction, but the concern is not just limited to north London. 

With Euro 2020 kicking off in June, Kane now faces a race against the clock to be fit and ready for international action in the summer. He is now in recovery after undergoing surgery, and there are high hopes that he will make a return before the end of the season. That is far from definitive, however, and England realistically need to start planning for life without their talismanic captain at the upcoming European Championships should he fail to win his battle against time. 

To add to Gareth Southgate’s growing concerns, it looks as though Marcus Rashford - another player who is absolutely pivotal for the Three Lions and their trophy aspirations this summer - is also an injury doubt ahead of the tournament. The 22-year-old sustained a back injury during Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Wolves in last week’s FA Cup fourth round replay at Old Trafford and could now face up to three months on the sidelines. It was a foolish decision taken by United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who risked his star striker despite knowing that he was not fully fit, which could now prove to be a massive blow for England if the forward fails to return to fitness in time for this summer’s tournament. 

While there is hope that both Kane and Rashford will be fit enough to feature for the Three Lions at Euro 2020, there is also a huge degree of uncertainty regarding the matter. It begs the question: If both of England’s main attacking threats are sidelined, who can step up and be counted? Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham will be the first to step to the forefront of England’s attack if both of the aforementioned names are unable to play. 

The Blues striker has enjoyed a sensational debut season in the Premier League this time out - netting 13 league goals in 22 appearances - and is all but guaranteed a spot on the plane this summer. Should Kane and Rashford both win their respective races against the clock, Abraham will be used more so off the bench in the latter stages of matches at the tournament; if they don’t, however, then his role in the England set-up will quickly transform from supporting actor to that of the leading man. 

After the season he has had so far, few would begrudge Abraham the opportunity to become England’s first-choice front man this summer. However, with such little experience at senior international level, it does leave plenty of question marks surrounding his ability to cope with the pressure of being the Three Lions’ key attacking threat at such a big international tournament. 

The 22-year-old has just four England caps to his name so far (one goal) and, although he has proven that he is capable of bearing the brunt of expectation on his shoulders from his performances for Chelsea this season, international football is a completely different animal which carries with it much greater expectation, from a nation starved of success for little over half a century. Abraham is another who is struggling with injury at the moment, though, after limping off during Chelsea’s 2-2 draw against Arsenal on Tuesday evening with a knock to his ankle. It is not yet confirmed how long he will be out for but it is not expected to be a long-term absence, so his participation at this summer’s tournament should remain unharmed. 

The next option is to bring Jamie Vardy out of retirement. Few would disagree that this has to be the decision taken by Gareth Southgate should the worst happen and Kane and Rashford are unable to compete at Euro 2020. The Leicester City marksman, who retired from international football back in 2018, has been in typically emphatic form for the Foxes this season, scoring 17 goals - more than anyone in the Premier League. The 33-year-old’s withdrawal from the England set-up 18 months ago took many by surprise, but with Harry Kane’s performances for the Three Lions so consistent, he has rarely been missed at international level. 

However, with an injury crisis potentially on the horizon and Vardy’s current scintillating form considered, calling him back to help out his country this summer - as a one off - seems like the most viable option to hand. He would add valuable experience to the squad and provide a very different threat for England in the final third, using his direct style of play and blistering pace to get in behind enemy lines. Unfortunately, early reports indicate that Vardy will not be open to an international return this summer, though that situation could easily change in the coming months.

Then there is a respectable case to be built around Southampton’s Danny Ings. The 27-year-old may only have one senior England cap to his name - dating all the way back to 2015 - but is experiencing a phenomenal season on the south coast this time out. Ings is second only to Vardy in the Premier League goalscoring charts as things stand, having found the back of the net 14 times for a Southampton side who have battled relegation for the most-part of the campaign, and looks set to be called into Gareth Southgate’s squad for March’s friendly matches against Italy and Denmark. 

It looks likely that Ings will be part of England’s squad for the Euro’s this summer as backup for Harry Kane (if fit) and Tammy Abraham, ahead of usual third-choice front man Callum Wilson - who has massively struggled for form this term - but should he be given the opportunity to lead the line ahead of Abraham if both Kane and Rashford fail to make it back in time? There is definitely an argument to suggest he should, considering his performances this season in a side with much more limited capabilities than that of Abraham’s star-studded Chelsea. 

Finally, Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin is making plenty of noise at Goodison Park this season, scoring 12 goals in all competitions for the Toffees. The 22-year-old has been an integral part of Aidy Boothroyd’s Under-21s in recent years (7 goals in 17 apps) but is yet to win a senior England cap. Indeed, with his performances for the Blues considered this term, there is an overwhelming feeling that he deserves his chance this summer, especially if Kane and Rashford’s lay-offs last for longer than currently anticipated. 

It all remains to be seen at this stage and hopefully things will not transpire the way in which they appear to be at the moment. One thing is for certain, though, if they do, Southgate won’t be short of options.

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