Part off kilter Ryan Gosling, part League One alumni; all mouth breather: Harry Kane is hardly what you’d expect as England’s next top pin up boy. He’s already been embraced by the sporting press, having given them the requisite column inches to span the past three months, and probably enough spare “Kane he/can’t he” headlines to fill the Mariana Trench.
He’s already proved his chemistry with fellow England forward and part-time contract gambler Raheem Sterling. The duo have formed an unshakeable safety net of media frenzy to catch the countless football fans falling into the precipitous dearth of interest that is the international break. But is he simply the English press’ next media darling? Merely a gawping Londoner, whose primary talent is to aid journos everywhere during those brief stretches of time in which Jose Mourinho has the wherewithal to keep his mouth closed? Or does this potential flash in the pan have the talent to escape from the Jack Rodwell halfway house of overhyped England players?
Although jealous/bitter Arsenal fans relish the opportunity to make much of the 12 months eight-year-old Harry Kane spent at their academy (and his childhood sartorial inclination towards Arsenal shirts) he is very much a product of the Tottenham youth system. He appeared frequently as an under-16 and 18 player for Spurs, breaking into the first team in the 2009-10 season (albeit only twice, in a rather muted cameo role firmly ensconced on the bench). He then saw himself loaned out to a succession of teams between 2011 and 2013, running the gamut from League One to the Premier League.
His most notable accolade was being voted Milwall’s young player of the season, during his brief loan spell at the club in the latter half of the 2011-12 season. Interestingly enough Kane was shipped out to Milwall with fellow Tottenham reserves escapee and newly baptised England player Ryan Mason.
After being recalled to Spurs for the 2013 season, Kane managed to bag an extra time equaliser in the League Cup against Hull, and netted a penalty in the shootout that saw his team advance to the next round. It was the April of 2014 that really put Harry Kane on the map for Spurs supporters, after he scored on his first League start for the team against Sunderland, and then proceeded to score for three games on the trot.
From here on in began the clamours from Tottenham fans for Tim ‘Tactics’ Sherwood to give this moon-faced marvel more game time. That said, when Roberto Soldado is all you have to place your hopes on, even Elmer Fudd would seem a more convincing goal poacher.
Kane’s superlative season thus far has already been well documented, recently leading Owen Hargreaves to pontificate that he reminded him of Thomas Muller. He scored in a succession of League Cup, Europa and Premier League ties, but it was the incredible and bizarre events of Tottenham’s Europa group stage victory against Asteras Tripoli that made him a known face to fans outside of the North London faithful. In a sensational performance, Kane bagged his first hat trick for Tottenham, but not content to be seen as limiting himself and his sporting prospects, Kane manfully donned the gloves after Hugo Lloris received a straight red. Although the routine free kick and the resultant goal that Kane failed to keep out did not overshadow what was an outstanding performance, it does prove he’ll never have the improvisational talent of centre-back and erstwhile Peter Bonetti impersonator John Terry.
The seemingly unstoppable Harry Train hype train really got into full steam in January of this year, when Kane banged in two in Chelsea’s ignominious 5-3 defeat to Spurs, and another two against West Brom at the end of the month. After deservedly winning January’s player of the month, and probably more cumulative minutes of Match of the Day discussion than Sunderland have ever had, it seemed like it couldn’t get any better for Kane. But then not only did he manage to score in February against Liverpool and West Ham, he got the brace that saw Tottenham triumph 2-1 in the North London derby against Arsenal. Another player of the month award saw him become only the fourth ever player to receive the award in consecutive months.
Mr Kane’s career seems set to be the neverending story of footballing fairy tales. He scored after just 79 seconds on the pitch and three touches – exploding the fever pitch of anticipation that had built up around Wembley after he had to wait four minutes for a break in play to be subbed on. He was then justly rewarded with his first England start against Italy, and then his first game as captain for Tottenham against Burnley – although he failed to shine in both. There seems to be two camps when it comes to Harry Kane.
The first is comprised mostly of any English football fan that isn’t also a Spurs fan. For these world-weary individuals, jaded after a seemingly endless line of overhyped England players, Kane is either yet to be proven, or simply lucky. He may have a knack for poaching goals, and being in the right place at the right time, but he is no star yet. For others, mostly to be found either amongst the throng at White Hart Lane, or the English press, Harry Kane is a latter day messiah – separated from Jesus only by the rather noticeable gulf in charisma between the two.
In reality, to be a sycophant in the court of Kane is far less of an offence than to underrate the man. With 30 goals in all competitions and an average of 1.9 goals per game it seems impossible to doubt his worth, even if his strikes aren’t all 66-yard Charlie Adam screamers. Wayne Rooney, another England player for whom there are as many wrongful detractors as there are appraisals, said he was “as excited as everyone else in the country about Harry”.
The question is not whether Harry Kane is an upstart, but whether he will burnout. Roy Hodgson has already said that Kane wants to play at the European Under-21 Championship over summer, and “finish the job that he has done”. Although Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino intimated a summer break would do Kane well, U21 gaffer Gareth Southgate, who recently masterminded a remarkable 2-1 win over Germany, thinks it is unlikely clubs will block their players from attending the tournament.
So it’s with a resigned sigh and a stunning lack of originality that I bookend this piece with the already tired question: Kane he, or can’t he? It is too soon to make any effusive and sweeping long-term judgements on Harry Kane’s future. But in a footballing landscape where dancing Daniel Sturridge is struggling to recover his pre-injury form, and speed demon Sterling seems wont to take his career into his own hands and in the wrong direction; maybe Kane – who is as consistently anodyne as he is clinical – is precisely what England needs right now.