Daniel Sturridge and 5 Uncapped Players Who Can Crash England Euro 2012 Squad
It was Sturridge's fourth goal of the season already and questions will soon be asked, if they haven't been already, if this young forward is ready to step up a level with his national side and stake a claim for a place in the full English squad.
With Wayne Rooney ruled out of the group stages of Euro 2012, Fabio Capello will be looking at alternative options for his forward line and Sturridge's goal-scoring form will do his chances of being selected no harm at all.
Here we examine five players' chances of breaking into the England squad in time for the European Championships at the end of the season—even though they have yet to win so much as a single cap for their country.
John Ruddy: Norwich City, Goalkeeper
Norwich's number one John Ruddy is a competent goalkeeper who is facing his first full season as a first choice in the Premier League.
Previously with Everton (whom he joined from first club Cambridge United) for five years without making a single league start for them, Ruddy's only league appearance came as a sub after Everton's two first team 'keepers were injured and the third choice, Iain Turner, was sent off during a match.
Finding his route to first team action blocked Ruddy went out on loan to eight different clubs before transferring to Norwich City at the beginning of last season.
He will expect to be kept busy this term as the newly promoted side battle against established top-flight opposition, but Ruddy has already shown good handling skills and a willingness to dominate his box aerially.
Question marks remain over his distribution and of course he must show good form over the entire length of the campaign, but England will certainly have at least one goalkeeping spot up for grabs and as one of just four English Premier League 'keepers Ruddy will fancy his chances of showing his worth.
Joe Hart is established at number one for his country while Scott Carson, playing in Turkey, will presumably get the nod as backup, but with Paul Robinson and Ben Foster unavailable for selection by Fabio Capello, Ruddy will battle for the third spot against David Stockdale, Rob Green and Scott Loach—all of whom are playing at a lower level than him.
Kyle Walker: Tottenham, Defence
Glen Johnson's place at club and country, once undisputed, is now severely under threat at right-back.
Having missed all of the season so far with injury, managers Kenny Dalglish and Capello have had to turn to other options to fill the gap.
At international level Micah Richards and, more recently, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have shown that they can do the job and all will be in with a shot of going to the tournament, but Kyle Walker of Tottenham has shown already this season and last that he is a real talent as an attacking full-back and can be capable of performing at the highest level for England.
Rapid over the ground and with an eye for a shot from distance—as proven this season with Spurs and last term with Aston Villa—Walker is a good outlet down the right flank and will always look to get on the overlap and provide additional width for his team in attack.
There is certainly nobody who has yet nailed down the right-back slot as their own and Walker will be one of the forerunners for the position if he can maintain his form and continue to improve, especially defensively.
Martin Kelly: Liverpool, Defence
Martin Kelly is the reason that Glen Johnson's place at club as well as country is under threat.
After making his debut against PSV a couple of seasons back, Kelly had to wait until last season to make his real breakthrough in the first team at Liverpool with a string of tough and hugely promising performances.
Though this campaign has been a little stop-start on account of his own injuries, Kelly's physical qualities and defensive awareness have made him more than a match against every winger he has come up against, whilst in attack he can deliver a telling cross and is happy to use his pace to get forward quickly on the counter.
More solid in defence than Walker but arguably not as naturally inclined to bomb forward at every opportunity, Kelly is a huge prospect at club and country level and can expect to get the call-up at some point soon.
Should he fend off the challenge of the returning-from-injury Glen Johnson for Liverpool over the course of the season, Kelly will be positive about his chances of making the squad for Euro 2012.
Tom Cleverley: Manchester United, Midfield
Had it not been for injuries and riots, Tom Cleverley may already have been a fully capped member of England's squad.
However, the Manchester United midfielder is as yet untried in the senior arena of international football and as such must continue to prove himself in the Premier League until the season's end if he hopes to make the cut.
At his current club since he was 14 years of age, Cleverley's progression through the United youth system has been aided by spells out on loan at the likes of Leicester City and Watford before he came to prominence in the Premier League last season on loan at Wigan Athletic.
A good passer with an eye for the unexpected, Cleverley possesses a good balance of work rate and creativity which has seen him take a central role in United's midfield early on in the season.
Though injury has ruled him out of recent fixtures, he will be optimistic of cementing his place back in the starting eleven when recuperated, while his versatility enables him the chance of playing out wide even if he is unable to recapture a centre midfield spot immediately.
England's midfield has long been a more or less settled trio or quartet of players but with a change in emphasis in recent qualifying matches and several young players trying to force their way into Capello's plans ahead of the European Championships, Cleverley will be one of those at the forefront of the Italian tactician's mind when picking his squad.
Daniel Sturridge: Chelsea, Forward
And so, to Chelsea goalscorer Daniel Sturridge.
The former Manchester City man has impressed boss Andre Villas-Boas in the early stages of this season and is now working his way towards being a regular starter in the league for the Blues.
Along with Juan Mata, Sturridge has been one of the two attackers chosen to play either side of central striker Fernando Torres, or Didier Drogba while Torres has been suspended.
Fast, tricky and full of confidence, Sturridge has made the most of his opportunities this season after a hugely successful loan spell at Bolton last season, where he plundered eight goals in just 12 games.
The former Manchester City youngster has come back to Chelsea looking like an established Premier League player and he will be one of the ones looking to take advantage of Capello being forced to consider alternative forward lines with the suspension of Rooney.
Darren Bent, Bobby Zamora, Danny Welbeck and Andy Carroll were in the last England squad along with Rooney; so far this season Sturridge has scored more in the Premier League than all of those four players.
Should his general improvement continue and he add more goals to his tally over the coming months, Daniel Sturridge will be in with a real chance of making the final squad for Euro 2012.