Daily Mail

England’s golden age of goals

Net-busters bursting out of elite academies, global audiences demanding teams attack and how five subs opened the door to our young stars


FRoM every perspectiv­e except Everton’s, there was so much to admire about Cole Palmer’s four goals on Monday. The first was all impudence and flair, with a nutmeg, an inventive flick, a change of pace to collect the return and a precision finish.

The second, a predatory instinct and desire to be in the right place, gambling, just in case. The third, awareness, audacity and technical aplomb with what is supposed to be his weaker foot.

The fourth, the penalty, composure in the face of squabbling team-mates.

Scoring goals of all types is a sign of a forward at the peak of his powers, high on confidence.

From an England perspectiv­e, it emphasised the creative riches at Gareth Southgate’s disposal as he fine-tunes his squad for Euro 2024.

There are six Englishmen among the Premier League’s top 10 scorers.

Nobody has more than Palmer’s

20. ollie Watkins is one behind on

19. Then, at various stages, come Dominic Solanke, Jarrod Bowen, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden. Between them, they have 99 goals and 42 assists.

For company, they have three former Golden Boot winners: Erling Haaland, Mo Salah and Son Heung-min. The other is Alexander Isak, thriving in his second season at Newcastle.

Meanwhile, the first two names inked on to Southgate’s squad list are plundering goals in Germany and Spain.

Harry Kane, the top English scorer in seven of the previous nine Premier League seasons, is some distance clear in the Bundesliga with 32 goals for Bayern Munich. Jude Bellingham has 16 for Real Madrid in La Liga.

Then there is Ivan Toney, who scored 20 last season and celebrated his first England goal against Belgium on his internatio­nal return last month, after serving an eight-month ban for gambling offences. That’s a lot of goal power.


forwards in rich form without weighing up the merits of Jack Grealish, James Maddison, Marcus Rashford, Conor Gallagher, Raheem Sterling or Anthony Gordon, who has 10 Premier League goals for Newcastle and impressed on his England debut against Brazil.

It is a long time since an England boss enjoyed such a wealth of options or faced such a challenge to squeeze the right combinatio­n into the squad of 23 he will select for Euro 2024.

There is sure to be someone omitted who has a strong case and Southgate will know that name will be thrown back in his direction on the first occasion his team struggle to find the net in Germany this summer.

The last time he named a squad of 23 there were four England players in the Premier League’s top 10 goalscorer­s. He took Kane, Sterling and Jamie Vardy to Russia among nine attacking players, but not Glenn Murray.

Ten years previously, when the Three Lions last failed to qualify for a major tournament, there were no English players in the top 10.

Cristiano Ronaldo led the way and before you reached Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe on 12 goals, there were Emmanuel Adebayor, Fernando Torres, Roque Santa Cruz, Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane, Benjani, Yakubu, Carlos Tevez and John Carew.

This was in the midst of a fresh wave of overseas imports following the arrival of Roman Abramovich at Chelsea.

The Abramovich takeover is one of the great landscape changers of the Premier League era because it sparked an increase in wages at a time when TV income from new broadcasti­ng deals started to soar.

Financiall­y, the league establishe­d itself as the most attractive in Europe. Perhaps the temptation was always to spend an influx of new money on expensive attacking players, working on the assumption attackers will score goals and therefore deliver success. And once you have spent big on them, they are difficult for a manager to leave out.

When England lost to Croatia in the rain in November 2007 and the last hope of reaching Euro 2008 vanished, Steve McClaren had Peter Crouch up front, supported by Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joe Cole wide, and Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard in midfield.

Defoe and Darren Bent came off the bench. Rooney was injured. Those eight players scored only 65 Premier League goals between them in 2007-08. David Beckham, by then playing in the United States, also came on.

Then the Abu Dhabi takeover at Manchester City threatened to kick spending on again and

there were Financial Fair Play regulation­s introduced and home-grown quotas.

Then came the Premier league’s elite Player Performanc­e Plan and the opening of the Fa’s national football centre St George’s Park, key factors in the production of a generation of highly technical footballer­s.

There are still internatio­nal footballer­s coming through the eFl such as Bowen and Watkins, but players like Palmer and Foden out of Manchester city and Saka out of arsenal are the epitome of the modern category one academy graduate.

english clubs are producing some of the finest creative players in the world, so the big money is available to improve other parts of the team.

last year, the demand for holding midfielder­s powered the Premier league’s transfer market.

arsenal paid £105million for Declan rice. liverpool spent £100m rebuilding their midfield. chelsea paid close to £280m for enzo Fernandez, Moises caicedo and romeo lavia, three midfielder­s with three Premier league goals between them this season. ELITE football is now more than ever about squad depth, with five substituti­ons allowed and a broad commitment to high-intensity football imposed by coaches with attacking philosophi­es appointed by owners craving global appeal.

The Premier league is hurtling towards a record goal haul this season. Palmer’s four for chelsea in the 6-0 thrashing of everton on Monday helped nudge the total number of top-flight goals up to 1,046 this season, scored at a whopping average of 3.24 goals per game. That’s on course to obliterate last season’s record of 2.85 and would be the highest since 1965.

Southgate still bemoans the limited pool of players from which he has to choose — and with good reason — but the dearth of talent is in other areas.

The balance has shifted. academies are producing talented forwards and tactical fashions, together with the move to five subs, have produced more opportunit­ies up front.

There is a steady supply of young players in attacking positions, some of them converted into full backs, and these are more likely to get a cameo from the bench than a centre-half or a holding midfielder. certainly more than a goalkeeper.

There is opportunit­y in the squad game and any youth developmen­t coach will tell you opportunit­y is the single most important factor.

There is not the same opportunit­y for a goalkeeper, centre halves or holding midfielder­s because they are more likely to remain in place as fresh minds and legs are sent on up front.

It is in these positions that Southgate wishes he had more options, but countering that, he must make the most of what might go down as a new golden age for english goals.

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 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Hot streaks: Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins (left) and Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka
GETTY IMAGES Hot streaks: Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins (left) and Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka
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 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Screamer: Chelsea ace Cole Palmer
GETTY IMAGES Screamer: Chelsea ace Cole Palmer

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