Fulham striker Bobby Zamora 'deserves England chance'
By Jonathan Stevenson
Zamora has scored four goals in his last three games and nine this season
In-form striker Bobby Zamora deserves an England call-up, according to his Fulham team-mate Chris Baird.
The 28-year-old has scored nine goals this season and comments from Fulham boss Roy Hodgson sparked a debate about the merits of picking him for England.
And Northern Ireland international Baird told BBC Sport: "If he keeps playing like this, why not put him in for a friendly and see how Bobby does?
"If Fabio Capello sees Bobby in this form then he has to give him a chance."
Zamora has never been called up for a full England squad after winning six caps for the Under-21s. He was reportedly called up for Trinidad & Tobago - where his father is from - earlier this year, but did not appear because of injury.
He has often been criticised for his scoring record, but nine goals this season, including a rich recent vein of form and a brace in the 3-2 Europa League win in Basle on Wednesday, have silenced the former Tottenham and West Ham hitman's critics.
Fulham boss Roy Hodgson recently talked up Zamora's potential as an "unusual selection" for Capello but later played down his comments, saying: "There's an awful long way between saying what I said and touting Bobby Zamora to play for England."
But Baird says there is no reason why Zamora should not be considered as an option when England travel to South Africa next year.
"By the time the World Cup comes around there could be injuries or anything, so Bobby has to keep this form going and see what happens," he said.
"Against Basle he was magnificent and could easily have had a hat-trick, so if he keeps this form up until May, he's got to have every chance."
England coach Capello has picked Emile Heskey, Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch, Darren Bent, Carlton Cole and Gabriel Agbonlahor to play up front in 2009, while Michael Owen still harbours hopes of a call-up.
Striker goal/games ratios for 2009-10 season
J Defoe: 17/21 (81%)
W Rooney: 14/25 (56%)
D Bent: 10/18 (56%)
B Zamora: 9/21 (43%)
G Agbonlahor: 9/23 (39%)
C Cole: 7/19 (37%)
P Crouch: 8/22 (36%)
M Owen: 7/22 (32%)
E Heskey: 3/22 (14%)
Zamora first came to prominence in a prolific spell for Brighton, scoring 83 goals for the club in 134 starts (including a six-game loan spell).
But a move to the Premier League with Tottenham proved a failure as he left for West Ham after 18 appearances and just one goal - ironically in the League Cup against the Hammers.
Zamora scored 40 goals for West Ham before a £4.8m switch to Fulham where he has scored 13 goals in two seasons.
In a recent interview, Zamora said that his style of play was geared up to helping his team-mates rather than grabbing a large number of goals.
"The gaffer appreciates what I do, which is holding the ball up and bringing people into play," said Zamora.
"I am never going to be a 30-goal-a-season man. It would be hard for someone to do the job I do and score 30 goals."
Baird added: "The critics out there have given him stick but Bobby's always done fantastically well for us, I don't care what anyone says.
"He'll miss a few like anyone, but if he gets the service he'll tuck more away than he misses. And his all-round game - his hold-up play, bringing people in around him, work-rate when we haven't got the ball - is second to none in my opinion.
Since the gaffer came to Fulham he has done amazing things
Chris Baird on Fulham boss Roy Hodgson
"He's absolutely vital to Fulham and long may his current form continue."
England are still firming up their opponents for any friendlies before the World Cup, with Egypt pencilled in for March before a later game, possibly against Mexico or Honduras.
Meanwhile, Baird also believes England could do much worse than look to Fulham boss Hodgson to replace Capello when the Italian leaves his current post.
Hodgson, who has managed Switzerland and Finland in the past, has himself admitted he would love to become England boss one day, having been linked with the job on several occasions in the past.
"I can't see any reason why Roy couldn't do the job," said Baird. "He knows international football, did a great job with the Swiss and has phenomenal experience of the game.
"Obviously England have got a good manager at the moment, but if the job did become available I'm sure they would give Roy the opportunity to talk to them at least and take it from there.
"Since the gaffer came to Fulham he has done amazing things. To keep us up in his first season was incredible enough, but to finish seventh last season was just magnificent.
"The boys are all playing for him, we're all happy he's here and we don't want to lose him.
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