Maybe there was too much brandy in the Christmas pudding. Perhaps it’s the sherry talking (hic!). But after another week in which Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling were the standout players in the Premier League, next summer’s World Cup is starting to look much more appealing for England fans.
Yes, I can hear the groans from here. But come on – ‘tis the season to be jolly. And it’s possible that this might be the only opportunity to feel truly optimistic about Russia 2018 before the ghosts of metatarsals past rears its ugly head.
You don’t need to dress this fact in tinsel and baubles to make it shine, however: right now, England boast two of the three top goalscorers in the Premier League.
Harry Kane’s goalscoring form for Tottenham has been sensational throughout 2017
Raheem Sterling has been transformed into a deadly marksman for Manchester City
Kane is undoubtedly the best striker in the league, with 18 goals at the halfway stage this season and a new record for goals in a calendar year snatched from Alan Shearer. His goals are scored every 93 minutes (although three often arrive in that timeframe too). Real Madrid want him. Any club and country in the world would love to have him. England really do have him.
Sterling looks up at only Kane and Mohamed Salah in the goalscorers’ table this season. His transformation under Pep Guardiola is staggering. The footballer so often derided for not being able to kick a ball properly now has more goals and a better shooting accuracy than Sergio Aguero.
In this form Kane and Sterling are, if fit, nailed on to take two slots in Gareth Southgate’s attack in Russia. That attack mustered a grand total of zero goals in two otherwise encouraging games against Brazil and Germany in November. Crucially, neither Kane nor Sterling played in either of those stalemates. Who knows what could be achieved when adding their cutting edge to this solid backbone?
Kane set a new mark for goals in a calendar year with his hat-trick against Southampton
Sterling pounced to grab the winning goal against Newcastle on Thursday night
The options for the other attacking positions are not in short supply either. Jamie Vardy, Dele Alli and Daniel Sturridge have proven they can pick apart any defence in the Premier League too. Then there’s Marcus Rashford, Adam Lallana, Danny Welbeck, Jesse Lingard and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Take your pick of any two from the above. There’s some real talent in there – some of it admittedly remains unfulfilled – and enough not to worry about the international retirement of a certain 10-goal Everton forward. Add the sprinkling of stardust provided by Kane and Sterling and there is real promise.
PREMIER LEAGUE TOP SCORERS 2017-18
(English players in bold)
18 – Harry Kane
15 – Mohamed Salah
13 – Raheem Sterling
12 – Sergio Aguero
10 – Alvaro Morata, Romelu Lukaku, Wayne Rooney
9 – Roberto Firmino
8 – Gabriel Jesus, Alexandre Lacazette, Jamie Vardy
Still not convinced? The last game both Kane and Sterling started together, England won 4-0. Kane scored twice, with Ryan Bertrand and Welbeck grabbing the others.
Yes, ok, that game was against Malta. And, yes, Kane and Sterling both started in THAT game against Iceland. And, yes, central midfield is looking pretty lightweight. And, yes, Joe Hart might still be in goal. And, yes, England have to face Kevin De Bruyne, the best player in the league, in the World Cup group stage. But I’m sticking my fingers in my ears now and can’t hear you and la-la-la-la-la.
Now’s not the time for that.
As we tick into 2018 and snatch a first view over the horizon of the world’s greatest sporting spectacle, let’s just enjoy the Kane and Sterling show and dream of what might yet be.
Now, pass me the Bailey’s again.
The pair will link up for England at next summer’s World Cup, if both stay fit
Sterling and Kane in action against France in 2015 – both have grown as players since
POTENTIAL ENGLAND WORLD CUP TEAM
Hart; Jones, Stones, Maguire; Walker, Rose; Dier; Rashford, Alli, Sterling; Kane
ENGLAND’S WORLD CUP FIXTURES
18 June Tunisia v England
24 June England v Panama
28 June England v Belgium