Carlton Cole’s five goals in the last six Premier League games have seen him shoot into the reckoning for a call-up to the national team for next week’s friendly in Spain. But does the West Ham striker’s hot run of form really justify selection for the Three Lions?
Fabio Capello seems to think so, although he is yet to comment directly on the player’s form. The Italian recently clocked up his 100th game viewed as England manager and 10 of these have involved West Ham.
Indeed he has watched the Hammers live seven times already this season and Cole has started every one of these matches. So it goes without saying that Capello will have a very good idea about the forward when it comes to naming his squad on Saturday evening.
Cole’s is an interesting tale, born in Croydon but of Nigerian and Sierra Leonean descent, he forged a decent early career with England’s Under-21 team, making a total of 19 appearances, scoring six goals. Never before in with a chance of a call-up for the senior team he was actually selected by Nigeria in 2008 for World Cup Qualifying games.
However, he was eventually ruled to be ineligible for the Super Eagles due to his previous appearances for the England Under-21 team.
Having played youth football for one country FIFA rules allow a player to switch allegiance to another, but this switch must be done before the age of 21. Cole’s call-up did not come until he was 24 and by then it was too late. However, one year on and it seems that Cole’s dream of international football is not yet over.
Having notched eight goals and five assists in the Premier League so far his performances have won over a lot of doubters at West Ham and helped the club maintain its top half position under Gianfranco Zola.
However, it is not only his recent goal scoring form (he recently equalled Tony Cottee’s club record of scoring in five consecutive top flight games) but also a relative injury crisis which has made his call-up highly likely.
Capello’s squad selections up until now have contained four forwards. For the last match in Germany these were Jermain Defoe, Gabriel Agbonlahor, Peter Crouch and Darren Bent, the former pair starting with the latter both appearing as substitutes in the win in Munich.
Wayne Rooney missed out through injury and looks likely to again as he only returned to training yesterday. Michael Owen is injured again and Defoe has now joined him on the sidelines having been ruled out for up to ten weeks with a foot injury sustained in training last week.
Dean Ashton was used by Capello in the summer but remains out for the foreseeable future. Emile Heskey will receive a recall having been injured last time out and will definitely be joined by new teammate Agbonlahor. The other two places are not so easy to call.
This leaves the remaining places up for grabs between Cole, Bent and Crouch with a further long shot being Andy Johnson. Bent returned to goal scoring form at the weekend but it’s unlikely that criticism from his own club manager will have escaped Capello’s attention.
Nor the fact that Harry Redknapp has signed two strikers in the transfer window. Bent’s days at Spurs frankly seem numbered, although Defoe’s injury might earn him a temporary reprieve.
With this in mind Capello could easily go with Cole and Crouch (albeit out of form) in the squad in addition to the Villa pair – and why not give Cole a try? Of course he’s not the answer to England’s problems, but he might offer a decent option as a more like-for-like replacement for Heskey and even one that will get you more goals.
As the most in-form English striker and given the injury situation it appears to be now-or-never for the West Ham front man as Capello will surely never have a better chance to take a look at him.