Ralph Hasenhuttl has backed Danny Ings for an England call-up as boss Gareth Southgate looks to fill the void left by Harry Kane’s hamstring injury.
Ings tore knee ligaments just days after his sole England cap in October 2015, and has only managed to regain total sharpness and form this season.
Tottenham and England talisman Kane will miss at least England’s fixtures against Italy and Denmark in March, and Hasenhuttl admitted now could well be Ings’ time.
Asked about Ings’ chances with England, Hasenhuttl said: “The good thing is I don’t have to decide! But I think if one player from my squad deserves it, then it’s him.
“Because he’s done a marvellous job in the last few weeks and the whole season he scores unbelievably good goals and important goals for us.
“It’s perhaps the best we’ve ever seen him. So if you want to pick it’s maybe not the worst moment now.”
Ings boasts five goals in his last five games as Southampton have raced away from what appeared a dire relegation picture to now sit 12th.
Hasenhuttl hailed Ings’ exploits as all the more impressive given his modest surroundings at Southampton.
“I think it’s even more spectacular if you are scoring for a team that’s not a so-called big club; that really proves you can do it,” said Hasenhuttl.
“But I think England has so many good strikers, you have a lot of options to pick.
“But I think at the moment Ingsy is in really, really fantastic shape.
“He enjoys playing, that’s all he can do, and if he gets a call-up for England not only will he be happy but also me too.
“Because that is a sign of what we do here, how we develop our players here. And that’s a good sign for the club also.
“I don’t expect him to keep scoring every week, so this is not normal for a striker.
“There’s also no reason why he shouldn’t keep scoring.
“The most important thing as a striker is that you don’t give yourself too much pressure, that you feel comfortable when you are in the box.
“He has a lot of self-confidence now and he shoots from every position and this is not a coincidence that he’s scoring more.
“But he’s so confident in his shape at the moment that he knows he will come again.
“Even when you take the game against Leicester where he was a little unlucky in the first half, he never stops trying or working and he scores again.
“This is important for him as a striker, there are definitely worse situations than he’s in now. It’s better to score every week and not to have to think about it.
“It doesn’t mean he’ll play every game because we have a tough schedule now, so we’ll have a look. Our strikers have to do a lot of sprinting and running against the ball.
“It’s the most demanding position, so we have to pay a lot of attention to that.”