“You come up against challenges in life and it’s how you deal with them that defines you” – Harry Kane, August 2015.
Of course, Harry Kane was talking about the challenge of scoring goals rather than the challenge of various people finding it amusing that you are so ridiculously focused on scoring goals, because one look at this collection of Harry Kane quotes tells you that Kane pretty much exclusively talks about working hard, scoring goals, working hard at scoring goals and the simple pleasures of a barbecue at home with friends. He is an uncomplicated man.
Indeed, Kane is so anodyne that he was once asked about an upcoming game against Nottingham Forest and said that “our minds are focused on that and hopefully we can get three points”. The problem? It was a cup game. Until very recently, that quote was probably the most amusing thing about Harry Kane.
But then – in single-minded pursuit of a third Golden Boot trophy, and in the absence of actual silverware – he appealed against the award of a goal to his teammate Christian Eriksen and swore “on his daughter’s life” that he had touched the ball. If that child’s mother did not smash him in the face when he uttered those words, she is a more tolerant woman than I; I wouldn’t even swear on my son’s life that Donald Trump is a dick, and that truly is irrefutable.
The bizarre and unsettling nature of Kane’s comments prompted hundreds of banter-tastic memes and clearly made the FA think they were on safe ground with their tweet about Kane being kept in Chris Smalling’s pocket during the FA Cup semi-final. It wasn’t hilarious but captured the mood; Kane was awful – just as he had been against Manchester City – and no amount of swearing on anybody’s lives would have bought him a goal in those games.
And then came Sunday night and an incredibly harmless, flippant ‘joke’ from PFA chairman Ben Purkiss that Kane is “so prolific that he is able to score without touching the ball”. Harmless. And yet Monday brought pieces from enraged journalists about the lack of respect shown to Kane. What had previously bordered on the bizarre was now fully immersed. We even got caught up in the nonsense ourselves when a Spurs fan wrote in the Mailbox that the ‘bullying’ of Kane had to stop. The reaction to our tweet suggested that amusement was slowly being replaced by resentment; the FA’s apology added to the growing feeling that people were oddly precious about England’s Golden Boy.
We hoped that Kane himself was privately thinking that this was all about nothing but instead, Thursday morning brought a back-page Daily Mirror exclusive that Kane and his family are ‘furious’ with the PFA. The story used the word ‘bullying’ and presumably came from either agent or family member. It sounds ridiculous because it is ridiculous. In just a few short weeks the perception of Kane has lurched: the nice, dull, humble man of March has become the selfish, humourless man of April.
But as quickly as Kane – or those around him – have created this impression, it could be reversed. One simple tweet containing the mild banter beloved of footballers (a gif of Salah’s first goal against Roma with an ‘I’ll be claiming this’ caption) and Kane could take ownership of this joke and kill it dead. It would take five seconds. The power would be taken away from the mockers and the whole non-story would be forgotten by the time the Spurs striker is named in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad.
The alternative is that Kane has put himself forward for a coveted role as England’s World Cup scapegoat. Play as badly in Russia as he did in France two years ago and it will not be the manager who is blamed for putting him on corner duty; it will not be Raheem Sterling who is booed in grounds across the country. Every shot into a defender from 25 yards – and there will be many as Kane is as prolific a shooter as he is a goalscorer – could be greeted as further evidence that Harry Kane thinks only of Harry Kane.
“I will always try to be as normal as I can,” is another Kane quote from 2015. But what has happened in the last few weeks is not normal. Far from it. It could be a very long summer if he cannot put this particularly crazy train in reverse.