Wayne Rooney's absence highlights England's lack of attacking options

Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge will form an inexperienced attack against Holland with no international goals to their name

It has been four months since a Montenegro defender by the name of Miodrag Dzudovic went to close down Wayne Rooney and an October's evening in Podgorica threatened to become one of those moments that will always form a part of the great England hard-luck story.

What possessed Rooney to draw back his right foot and deliver the short, stabbing kick into the calves of a thirtysomething journeyman from Spartak Nalchik is a question that has never properly been answered.

Perhaps the Manchester United striker was struggling to deal with the knowledge his father and uncle had been arrested the previous day over a betting investigation. Or maybe it was something more straightforward and just another demonstration that Rooney will always endure moments when something innocuous pricks his temper and he reacts.

Whatever the reasons, these are the days when the ramifications of what happened in the City Stadium last autumn are starting to be felt and it is becoming increasingly clear that, behind Rooney, England look conspicuously short when it comes to finding a centre-forward with the authentic qualities needed at this level.

If there is one crucial piece of information that needs to be gleaned from England's three friendlies before the start of Euro 2012, starting on Wednesday against Holland, it is how to realign the front positions now Rooney is suspended for the first two games of the tournament. How serious, maybe critical, the issue is may be gauged by the fact that the two players who will almost certainly form Stuart Pearce's new-look attack at Wembley, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge, have a combined four substitute appearances between them and the only forward in reserve, Fraizer Campbell, is uncapped and did not even get into Sunderland's starting lineup for their 4-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

This is not to question the sense in using Wednesday as an opportunity to immerse younger players so that, if they are needed this summer, they are less susceptible to the kind of stage-fright that even a formidable warrior such as Pearce has admitted affected him in his early days with England.

Welbeck, for one, is a striker of great raw ability, whose improved body strength and penetrative movement is allied with a wonderfully measured temperament. Sturridge, a year older at 22, has prolific bursts of scoring and, though frustratingly selfish on occasions, is entitled to be campaigning for a central role at Chelsea after spending most of the season drifting in from the right.

Sturridge has 11 goals in 29 appearances for Chelsea this season and has overtaken Fernando Torres and Salomon Kalou in the order at Stamford Bridge. Welbeck, with nine goals in 28 games for Manchester United, has kept out Javier Hernández at times, no small feat given the Mexican's penalty-box awareness. There is also the fact that Rooney's record at major international tournaments is undeniably poor since those phenomenal performances in Euro 2004 brought Pelé comparisons from Sven-Goran Eriksson. Yet Rooney still has a presence that worries defenders. It creates a sense of menace, that something could always happen.

Without him it is stretching the imagination to believe that a Dutch side rated third in Fifa's world rankings will be alarmed by the prospect of a Sturridge-Welbeck double act. Many of the Netherlands-based players in Bert van Marwijk's squad may not even have heard of Campbell given the time he has spent out because of ruptured knee ligaments.

And that, for England, is just about that now Pearce has not felt it necessary to call for back-up after Rooney, with a throat infection, followed Darren Bent in withdrawing from the squad. Jermain Defoe, Bobby Zamora and Peter Crouch all took a telephone call from Pearce last week to say, thanks, but not this time. If they have been waiting by their phones since then, they will have been disappointed. Andy Carroll, the seventh most expensive footballer on the planet, did not even get the original call.

At England's training camp on Monday James Milner was asked whether this team were short in attack. "No, because you don't get called up by England if you're an average player," he said. "I've played with Fraizer, for example, in the Under-21s and he's a great player. It speaks volumes of him, considering how long he's been out, that he has made the impact he has in such a short space of time."

Stewart Downing, however, expressed sympathy for Andy Carroll. "I'm sure he's probably disappointed he's not in. He's been a big part of the [Liverpool] team the last few weeks, creating goals and making himself a handful."

Downing said it was unfair of Fabio Capello to raise questions about Carroll's lifestyle. "You make mistakes along the way but from what I know of him at Liverpool he's been no problem at all." The fact remains, however, that Carroll looks to be England's eighth-choice striker, or even worse, certainly in Pearce's thinking.

As for Bent, even if his ankle is fully healed in time, the Aston Villa striker is entitled to be concerned that the new manager could be Harry Redknapp, the man who bought him for Spurs, marginalised him and sold him.

Redknapp, one imagines, would prefer Crouch or Defoe, regardless of the fact that he has moved one on and is keeping the other out of his Spurs team.

Whoever gets the job, however, is not being left with an array of attacking riches. Consider this statistic: between them England's three strikers on Wednesday have four caps and zero goals; for the Dutch, Robin van Persie, Dirk Kuyt and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar have a combined 194 international appearances, with 79 goals.

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