Harry Kane’s good, isn’t he? Isn’t he? Is he good? He must be good. He scored all those goals last season. He played for England and scored after two minutes. He was PFA Young Player of the Year. Manchester United were apparently counting out £40-odd million worth of pennies to bid for him. He’s definitely good. He must be.
But is he though? Is he actually good? The goals have dried up rather this season – he’s got a couple for England and one for Spurs. The clinical finisher that banged in 31 last season has been replaced by an uncertain ditherer, a man whose shots seem to arrow in on the goalkeeper’s hands or feet rather than the bottom corner of the net. So is he actually any good?
Tottenham had better hope he is, because all of their striking eggs are in a Kane-shaped basket. They spent the entire summer chasing Saido Berahino, always seeming confident that they would get him, only for their most cunning plan to collapse at the last when Jeremy Peace refused to hand over his sweets to the bigger boys. They ended up looked like a farmer chasing a chicken around a yard, slipping and sliding all over the place, trying to catch the thing but falling face-first in the mud and faeces.
The problem wasn’t quite so much that they failed to get Berahino, but more that they didn’t get anyone else. Seemingly it was Berahino or nothing for Spurs, which given that Kane was their only other striker, turned out to be literally the case. Out went Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado, quite rightly, but in came…a couple of wingers; potentially fine players, but not massively useful in the centre-forward position.
So Kane, and only Kane it is, at least until January. Which if he turns out not to be very good, leaves them in some bother. His success last season was a surprise to basically everyone, given his career up to about October of 2014. He looked like a game but limited trier, a willing hound who would run through the proverbial brick wall but not actually score much. A total of 56 games in loan spells at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester had produced 14 goals; not a dreadful return, but equally didn’t exactly suggest he was Jimmy Greaves MkII. In short, there was little to indicate Kane would be a Premier League starter, let alone an international and certainly a totemic player for a team as good as Tottenham.
Of course, players develop at different speeds and Kane could just be a late grower, the kid at school who was 5ft 2 at 14 but 6ft 3 at 15. But equally it could be that last season was just the most implausible individual campaign in recent history, a nine-month purple patch in which everything that could have gone right for Kane, did. In America they call this sort of thing a ‘career year’, but catching lightning in a bottle is tricky to do twice.
There could be any number of reasons for Kane’s poor form. Perhaps it’s fatigue, given that he’s barely had a break in the last year after taking part in England’s (brief) European Under-21s Championship last summer. Perhaps it’s a result of the pressure placed upon him by being Tottenham’s only striker. Perhaps this is just an isolated bad run of form, the sort that every striker suffers from time to time.
Watching him play at the moment is like a novelist suffering from writer’s block, but rather than sitting in a chair staring at a blank computer screen, eyes simultaneously glazed and also wide with fear and caffeine, he’s running around a football pitch. He’s desperately searching for the inspiration that came before, in the same way as a band who produced a brilliant debut album search for another ten good new tunes. Kane’s 2014/15 was ‘The Stone Roses’; it remains to be seen if this season is ‘The Second Coming’.
This sort of thing isn’t uncommon. Numerous strikers have enjoyed brilliant single seasons, from Amr Zaki to Roque Santa Cruz to that reliable barometer of transfer value Michu, only to then disappear to a strange and faraway hinterland of lost goalscorers, never to be heard from again. Or, in Marcus Stewart’s case, Sunderland.
The difference is that very few of these other lost souls had so much faith placed in them, both emotional and practical. Supporting a football team is not a logical business, so it’s hardly a surprise that Tottenham fans fell hard for Kane, a boy who came through their youth ranks and then suddenly started bagging goals in implausible quantities. There’s little more that would delight the Spurs crowd, or indeed many other people, than Kane being their centre-forward for the next ten years.
That one goal for Spurs this term came against Manchester City, when Kane bunted a rebound into the net, looping through the autumn London air and just, just, just dropping under the bar. If that game was part of a film, that scene would have been shown in slow-motion, the camera would’ve cut to close-ups of Kane, Mauricio Pochettino, people in the crowd and a grasping Willy Caballero, all with eyes wide watching the ball and wondering where it would end up. It would have been sound-tracked only with the noise of a heartbeat, louder than John Bonham’s kick drum, before everything dissolves back to real time as the ball rolls around in the net.
Hopefully this film has a happier second act. Hopefully Kane, this immensely likeable player and by all accounts man, finds his touch again. Hopefully he is actually as good as many of us, well, hope he is.