It is no secret that Harry Kane is, potentially, coming towards the end of his England career. Ever since Roy Hodgson handed the former Spurs forward his first international cap against Lithuania, a game in which he scored just 80 seconds after coming on, he has been a staple in the starting 11 for England.
Kane’s achievements for England are very well documented, especially after becoming England’s all-time leading scorer, currently registering 67 goals in his 81 games so far, sending him 8 goals clear of the previous record holder, Wayne Rooney.
The 30-year-old, who has recently moved to Bayern Munich, may well be considering hanging up his international boots if England win the 2024 Euros in Germany.
Even if England do not manage to win the tournament, Kane may well retire before the 2026 World Cup.
So, who are the main candidates to take the helm and lead England’s front line? Whilst none on the list have been as prolific as Kane, on a club or international level, they may well be able to fill the void.
Ollie Watkins has certainly impressed at Aston Villa in recent seasons. After grabbing 40 goals over the course of the last three seasons, Watkins may find himself more involved in the international team than he has been.
Gareth Southgate handed Watkins his international debut in a qualifier against San Marino. The Villa forward came off the bench and scored with his first shot on target.
Watkins was then named on the provisional squad for the 2020 Euros, before being cut from the final 26-man squad.
He continued to impress, and Southgate continued to hand him opportunities in friendlies. His first start came against Ivory Coast, a game in which Watkins scored the opening goal as England cruised to a 3-0 win.
Despite this, Watkins did not make the cut for the 2022 World Cup squad, and instead was not included in the international team until recently, scoring the only goal of the game in a 1-0 friendly win against Australia.
It is hard to see why Watkins does not get more game time with England, considering his goalscoring exploits with Villa and Brentford in recent seasons. He has so far managed 3 goals in his 8 England games, and should he replace Kane, that tally would increase.
Against Australia, Watkins was guilty of missing a fair few chances, ones that Kane or other strikers on this list would have put away. Watkins loves to run at the defence, and that is not something that happens often on the international stage, where a slow, patient build-up is preferred.
Whilst there is no doubt that Watkins would be a success for England should he be included in the starting 11 more often, there seems to be more suitable options out there.
One of the other more obvious replacements for Kane is Brentford’s Ivan Toney. Toney has been immense for Brentford, ever since his arrival in 2020.
In 2021, Toney recorded the most goals in a single Championship season, as his 31 goals helped fire Brentford into the Premier League.
It was not just in the Championship where Toney impressed, as he continued to perform in the Premier League as well.
Last season, Toney managed to hit that magical 20 goals that every striker craves, guiding Brentford to a top-half finish.
Despite his goal-scoring accolades, it is surprising to see that Toney has only received one international cap, that one being a substitute appearance against Ukraine, where the forward only managed to receive around 10 minutes of action.
Before his international debut, there was a degree of uncertainty as to whether Toney would represent England, as the Jamaican federation made it clear that they wanted Toney to represent them, in order to qualify for the World Cup.
Toney chose to represent England instead but has found his game time cut short. It will be difficult to tell whether Toney will get the chance to represent England ever again either.
After his betting scandal, and his 8-month ban from football, it will be interesting to see whether Toney returns to action in the same form, and with the same levels of fitness.
Even if he does, there is no guarantee that the FA will want Toney to represent the national team.
In terms of style of play, Toney would suit England perfectly. His build and strengths allow him to hold the ball, even when under pressure, and he brings other players into the game.
His scoring record on the international stage is non-existent due to his lack of game time for England, but it is hard to see why he cannot take his goalscoring exploits for Brentford, and do the same for England.
One of the remaining few names who could be deemed an obvious replacement for Kane, is Man United’s Marcus Rashford.
Whilst not an obvious out and out striker, Rashford has played this position on numerous occasions for Man United over the past few seasons.
His versatility could work wonders for England, should he replace Kane, as defenders would find it hard track him across the pitch, whether he remains central, or drifts out wide.
For United, he performed brilliantly last season. He took his performances to another level, as he got himself 30 goals in all competitions, and became the first United players to do so in the last 10 years.
His ability to score goals was never questionable, but his consistency is. After scoring 17 goals in 35 appearances last season, Rashford has managed just 1 goal in his first 8 this season.
He must learn to perform consistently if he is to have any chance of being a regular starter for the England squad.
Rashford’s form in his breakthrough season meant that Roy Hodgson handed him his first senior call up. In 2016, Rashford played his first England game in a friendly against Australia, and he got himself on the scoresheet after just 3 minutes.
That goal meant that Rashford became the youngest player to score for England on their debut, and the third youngest player to score for England.
Since then, Rashford taken England to a 4th place finish in the 2018 World Cup, a 2019 Nations League finals, and a 2020 Euro final.
Rashford has already racked up 57 appearances for England, and has scored 17 goals in that time, an impressive feat considering most of his playing time for England has been spent out wide.
Could Rashford replace Kane then? He certainly knows how the international setup works, and has gained valuable experience in both the Euros and the World Cup.
He has experienced the highs and lows of international football, and has learnt many lessons from his defeats, especially that penalty miss against Italy in the final.
Rashford would certainly be able to replace Kane for the time being, but his performances as a striker at club level leaves questions to be asked as to whether his best position would be out on the wing instead.
Other Notable Mentions
There are few other names that are capable of filling the void Kane may leave, but Eddie Nketiah may be one of those.
The Arsenal forward already holds the record for most goals scored for England’s U21s, taking the helm from Alan Shearer.
Nketiah’s time with the senior England team has been very limited, as he received his debut against Australia just a few days ago, coming off the bench late on.
Should Nketiah continue performing how he has been for Arsenal, he may well be a striker England could turn to in the future.
Another name that could be considered is Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Unlike Nketiah, Calvert-Lewin has already featured 11 times for England, scoring 4 goals in the process.
He has already tasted success on the international stage, winning the 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup, scoring the only goal of the game in the final, winning the tournament for England.
After recently returning from a string of injuries to Everton, should Calvert-Lewin start to score on a consistent basis again, he may be considered in future selections, despite the abundance of competition.
Lastly, a forgotten name that may not be considered again, is former Chelsea man Tammy Abraham.
The current Roma striker has featured 11 times for England already, scoring 3 goals. Since Abraham’s move to Roma, however, the striker has not been called up to the international stage.
Whilst it would be hard for anyone to fill Kane’s boots completely, England do have some good options in and around the squad to replace him.
Whilst none of these replacements are like for like in play style, or in terms of goal scoring ability, they could each stake their claim for that starting spot in the squad.
In terms of scoring ability, and a suitable style of play for international football, Toney would be the most appropriate option, should he return from his suspension in the same form.
Should he not, and he not be considered for international duty again, Rashford may find himself the focal point, rather than featuring out wide. This would open up an entirely separate debate as to who would replace Rashford outwide.
Whatever happens, England have a very talented group of players. A group that can score goals from all over the pitch. Whether from set pieces with Trippier’s delivery, free kicks from Maddison, or on the break through Rashford, Sterling and Grealish.