Arsenal legend Alan Smith believes England's young strike force can cope without the suspended Wayne Rooney for the opening fixtures at Euro 2012 after an impressive display against Holland at Wembley on Wednesday night.
Caretaker manager Stuart Pearce surprised many observers when he plumbed for Adam Johnson ahead of Daniel Sturridge to link up with Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young in a three-man attack.
Nevertheless, Sturridge got a good run-out after Steven Gerrard was forced off after half an hour with a tight hamstring. And the aforementioned Arsenal legend insists there was enough in the combined performances of Sturridge, Young and Welbeck to alleviate any concerns over Manchester United forward Rooney's absence for the first two games in Poland and Ukraine this summer.
"By the end of the night, we had all had a good look at the young bucks vying for a place in England's attack to face France in Donetsk on June 11th," ex-Arsenal front-man Smith told the Telegraph. "And despite the final result at Wembley last night, there was enough in the combined performances of Sturridge, Young and Welbeck to believe Wayne Rooney's absence for the first two games of Euro 2012 may not be so damaging as many fear.
"Starting with Welbeck first, the Manchester United striker may have left the pitch feeling a bit down, seeing as he hadn't really threatened Holland's goal all night. Yet not all of the blame can be laid at his door.
"The anticipated combination, for instance, with Steven Gerrard never quite clicked before Liverpool's captain was forced to come off after half an hour.
"During that time, Welbeck did OK with the scant service he got, holding the ball up well when it was clipped his way, the only trouble being he did most of this work 30 yards out, rarely, if ever, managing to turn Holland's back four.
"Yet the United striker possesses most of the attributes to succeed at this level. He is quick, mobile with an improving technique that allows him to combine pretty well with supporting team-mates."
Smith also singled out winger Young for praise, after the Manchester United player scored England's second goal with a deft finish over goalkeeper Maaten Stekelenburg.
"As for [Manchester United forward Ashley] Young, it was good to have him back in an England shirt, as he reminded us of his ability to swing in dangerous deliveries, be it in open play or from set pieces," Smith said.
"When the injured Gerrard departed, Young moved inside from the left to take his place, a role Fabio Capello had previously handed the lad in Bulgaria last September when, on a ropy surface, the experiment failed. It wasn't much easier here either, even if Young did ever so well in taking his goal, a cute chip over Maarten Stekelenburg to pull England level."
And the former Arsenal striker insists Sturridge has a bright future in the England side, after the Chelsea frontman marked his second senior appearance with an impressive display.
"Talking of preferred positions, Sturridge still didn't get a chance to play through the middle but at least he got a good run-out courtesy of Gerrard's withdrawal," Smith added. "The Chelsea man had endured a difficult start to his England career after struggling to impress on the left flank in the November friendly against Sweden.
"Better signs, however, started to emerge in the second half here, particularly when Sturridge showed a lovely bit of footwork to deceive his marker and get in a shot that the goalkeeper fumbled. It's clever work like this in tight areas that make you think he could be useful at international level, especially in games crying out for inspiration."