Will Capello stick with the striker who can't score?

England coach admires Emile Heskey's attacking style but accepts he'll have to look elsewhere for goals.

Who will score the goals that will win England the World Cup? A simple question, complicated by the fact that Fabio Capello is obsessed with picking Emile Heskey, who hardly ever scores for his country, an approach that failed its latest examination on Wednesday night.

At half-time in Amsterdam, England needed goals. They were two down and Wayne Rooney – around whom Capello has built his team – had scarcely had a shot on target. So what did the manager do in a tight spot? He brought on a goalscorer in Jermain Defoe, took off Heskey and turned the game around.

Sometimes the answer is obvious. Need a goal? Get a goalscorer on the pitch. The praise for Heskey in his recent renaissance in the latter days of Steve McClaren and then under Capello has been unstinting. He makes chances for Rooney, we are told, he unsettles defenders, he causes the damage for others to exploit. Yet the elephant in the corner, the statistic that is almost too embarrassing to mention, is his seven goals in 55 international caps.

The big question is whether, once England are at the World Cup, Capello is prepared to place his faith in Rooney scoring virtually all his team's goals by continuing to pick a striker alongside him who barely scores himself. That is some pressure on Rooney, even with his current run of 10 goals in eight games.

Of course, Heskey has his strengths. He is a robust athlete, he chases back and he has a willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good. That selfishness that characterises so many goalscorers is absent in Heskey: he is happy to be the straight man, the support act, the facilitator. Which is fine until England reach the point in a game when what they really need is a goal.

At the moment we are told that the England manager is in thrall to the man from Aston Villa, so much so that he is watching the likes of Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Daniel Sturridge this season to see if they could do a job as a proto-Heskey come next summer. The tempting thought is to advise them that the fewer goals they score this season – and the more flick-ons they aim towards fellow strikers, the more heroic tracking back – the better chance they have.

If next summer's strikers were to be picked on goals alone, then it would hold no fears for Peter Crouch. He has 16 goals in 34 caps and, more tellingly, his goals to minutes on the pitch ratio is better than any of the squad's current strikers. Crouch scores every 119 minutes he is on the pitch for England, better than Defoe (one every 130 minutes) and Rooney (one every 156 minutes).

Crouch was left out of the squad to face the Netherlands because he had not played a single pre-season game and is therefore not judged match-fit – a rule that Capello applied less stringently with the likes of Ben Foster. Nevertheless there is a lingering sense that Capello is not convinced by Crouch, whom he regards as not dynamic, not Heskey-like enough. Certainly, Crouch is antithetical to Heskey in one respect: he scores.

Crouch scored 16 goals in a struggling Portsmouth team last season, Rooney managed just one more playing for the champions, Manchester United. Defoe scored 13 goals for Portsmouth and then Tottenham. Heskey, playing for Wigan and then Aston Villa, scored five all season. To make up for his shortfall in goals it would be logical that Heskey should be exceptional in other areas, but is he really that good?

Carlton Cole also fits the Heskey template. He runs about, unsettles defenders and, by and large, does not score many goals. Cole is yet to score for England in three caps – in his defence, he has played just 65 minutes in total – yet the prospect of taking him to South Africa ahead of Crouch is already up for serious discussion. Thus ensuring that England would go to the World Cup with at least two strikers who, history tells us, would be odds-on not to score.

When he discussed Defoe after the match on Wednesday, Capello, with a grasp of English that seems to have deteriorated again over the summer, paid tribute to his striker's goalscoring attributes. "I am happy when he plays with us because he always plays well. He is dangerous. He scores goals. If he plays from the first minute he plays well. When he plays the second half he plays well.

"I like players who are good technically and who are fast. This is important for players who score goals. We have to get to South Africa first, after that I will choose."

Capello mentioned the importance of goals twice which makes you wonder why he has such a fondness for those strikers who do not score. Beyond the front line there are not the goals in this England team that some perceive there to be. Steven Gerrard has 14 international goals but averages one every 403 minutes on the pitch; Frank Lampard has 17 goals and averages one every 314. Given that the group stages of the World Cup encompass 270 minutes, it would be unwise to rely on either scoring more than two in a tournament.

The natural assumption to make is that Defoe's two goals mark the beginning of the end for Michael Owen's aspiration of being the understudy for Rooney in South Africa and certainly Capello did nothing to dissuade anyone of that. The lack of goals from Heskey dictates that the two strikers other than Rooney and Heskey who go to the World Cup will be those who demonstrate decent goalscoring form this season.

Capello has built his success so far on the premise that Heskey is good for Rooney and there is evidence to support that. But what happens, as on Wednesday night, when Rooney is off colour in front of goal and, as usual, no goals are forthcoming from Heskey? The answer is not more of the same with Cole. Rather Capello needs the alternative of Crouch and Defoe, two players who have proved for club and country that they can produce goals.

Sport
premier leagueLive: All the latest news and scores from today's matches
News
politics
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker