Southampton striker Charlie Austin

If Southampton and Bournemouth stars don’t make the next England squad, they never will

A regularly regurgitated gripe among those willing to devote the necessary time and brain power to analyse England squads for tournament qualifiers and friendlies is how reputation often seems to carry more weight than form in the selection process.

In such moments, it seems clear that appeasing egos is of far greater importance for international managers than pandering to public opinion and always results in underperforming mainstays of a team keeping their place at the expense of those playing sufficiently well to warrant a call up, if not a cap.

When Gareth Southgate comes to select his 23-man troop to face Scotland and Spain in November, it’s likely he’ll be faced with the age-old dilemma.

England’s four frontline strikers – Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Jamie Vardy – for whatever reason, find themselves out of the first-team pictures with their respective clubs, while previously unrecognised marksmen do the business from their less-prestigious outposts.

The previous round of Premier League fixtures saw none of the aforementioned quintet make a starting XI.

Wayne Rooney buries his face in his hands on England duty
Wayne Rooney buries his face in his hands on England duty

Rooney, Welbeck and Kane were omitted on doctor’s orders, though the former’s much discussed stint on the Manchester United fringes meant he almost certainly wouldn’t have started the Red Devils’ tonking at Chelsea regardless.

Kane isn’t in the same bind performance-wise but, after enduring a second successive slow start to Premier League proceedings on the back of an especially poor Euro 2016, there isn’t exactly a clamour to see the Tottenham sharpshooter back in an England shirt.

As for Welbeck, he won’t play again until 2017 as he continues to recover from a serious knee injury.

Sturridge is very much second string at Liverpool – he wasn’t afforded a single minute of action against West Brom after underwhelming when pitched in from the off against Man Utd the game prior – yet started both the Three Lions’ games in October.

Meanwhile, Vardy’s form has deserted him following an extraordinary 2015/16 campaign. No goals in five Premier League games and his subsequent relegation to the Leicester bench is sure to stifle Hollywood interest in the son of Sheffield.

This collective souring of form coincides with Southampton’s Charlie Austin surfing a hot streak with seven goals in his last eight across all competitions. He’s also averaging one chance every 22.1 minutes and boasts an impressive shooting accuracy rate of 47.6%.

Further along the south coast, Callum Wilson is doing well at Bournemouth, scoring three in his previous six outings, while no English frontman boasts more league goals than Sunderland’s Jermain Defoe, who has fired four in nine for Sunderland so far.

Age may prevent the latter returning to the England fold, but the former duo are definite contenders for a spot in the next squad Southgate announces, especially with those ahead of them in the pecking order all short of form and/or fitness.