Harry Kane is as timeless as his purple patch is endless

John Nicholson
Harry Kane

At some point Tottenham hero Harry Kane just totally dedicated himself to being the best and pursued that goal with intensity and ruthlessness.


Who’s this then?
Harry Edward Kane is 28 in a couple of weeks and is currently a striker for Spurs but perhaps won’t be for much longer. And in case you’ve been off your head on mushrooms for the last few days, he has just led England to a European Championship final for the very first time, scoring the rebound from a saved penalty that took them there.

A 6ft 2ins Walthamstow boy, growing up 15 minutes from White Hart Lane, he spent a year on Arsenal’s youth books before Liam Brady got rid saying he was a chubster and not athletic enough. He joined Spurs in 2009 when he was 16 but only made a single appearance until the 2013/14 season, being famously sent out on loan to Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester where he ‘learned to play football with grown men’ as the grizzled old warhorse managers always put it, with just a hint of the homoerotic. He played 65 games for those clubs and scored 16 times.

On returning to Spurs there were still a lot of doubts about him. ‘Kane Not Able’ was a headline someone must surely have written after a barren spell in front of goal. But in 2014/15 it all changed.

Suddenly he dropped weight, his body seemed to get far bigger and harder. He seemed to get much wider, much more well-developed. Whether this was simply his body growing into adulthood, or whether he’d been on the beef tea and chicken giblets, I don’t know. But the change was remarkable. He netted 31 in 51 that season and from the chubby, dull caterpillar had emerged the bright elusive butterfly of Kane love.

Since that season he’s scored 216 times for Spurs in 310 games with 2017/18’s remarkable 41 goals in 48 games being his best campaign total to date. Now with his own personal chef to make sure the chicken and pasta is just the right temperature and to make sure he doesn’t, like the rest of us, eat a bucket of Mackie’s salted caramel ice cream because he’s depressed at the state of the country with a charlatan like Boris Johnson getting a large parliamentary majority despite being a useless, duplicitous, lying bastard.

His (Kane’s, not Johnson’s) assists stats now impress massively, too, as he has transformed himself into two players: one a striker, one a playmaker.

Spurs, of course, continued not to win anything under the guiding bucket-on-a-stick that is Daniel Levy and yet relied on Kane to make them look like a serious club involved in a serious project to be serious about coming somewhere in the top ten every season. The result is the Kane trophy cabinet is full of personal honours but entirely empty of actual trophies. The Queen even took sympathy on Harry and in 2019 gave him an OBE to play with, which he no doubt looks at wistfully in the silence of a long night.

Inevitably Harry has got a bit fed up with having the piss taken out of him, but despite this he still signed an extension which was very, very silly but then contracts are worthless totems and he has already phoned a cab to go to what I insist on still calling Maine Road and being stroked like a pro by Pep Guardiola.

His goal tally for clubs now stands at 237 in 401 games. Meanwhile, for England he’s reached 38 goals in 60 games and looks odds-on to break Wayne Rooney’s record of 53 goals without any hair. He’s about to surpass infamous movie-hating-because-they’re-not-real, Michael Owen and his record of 40 goals. It’s not far-fetched to think he could finish with 65-70 goals for England.

Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane


Why the love?
In the interests of full disclosure, for years I never thought Kane was a top-rank footballer. I remember seeing him huff and puff his way around the pitch in 2013/14 as Spurs gave him 19 games in the first team that season, during which time he scored just four times. He looked a bit useless and it was hard to know what role suited him. He was too slow, sometimes to the point of lumbering, to play on the shoulder, but didn’t seem to know how to play a lone striker and didn’t have the ball game to be a No. 10. I fully expected him to drop down the leagues and be playing for Southend by now.

This went so deep that even as he started scoring and playing fantastic football, I still expected this to be a blip, a purple patch and nothing more and that his form would recede to the mean soon enough.

Of course this never happened, though when he goes through one of those periods of looking like his legs are made out of night storage heaters and he is running through peanut butter, that thought always returns. Indeed, I can’t think of any supreme striker that is capable of looking so exhausted, washed out and anaemic, only to suddenly turn up the saturation and bloom into a bloody brilliant goal machine.

He is, of course, a gift to the awful tabloid and right-wing press in general. Here’s a nice boy who married his childhood sweetheart and does right by everyone. He won’t be found at a Kyle Walker sex party, indeed it is hard to imagine Harry even knows what sex is, despite having two children. Not an ounce of that sort of twinkle in the Kane eyes, oh no.

The press seem to have turned him into some sort of cartoon English character who has just returned from the Crusades or something and they vaunt his every move at every opportunity whilst overlooking the similar or greater achievements of others. Even on Wednesday night it took Ian Wright to query why he had got Star Of The Match and not Raheem Sterling who, by any stretch of the imagination, or any perusal of the statistics, deserved it more. Hard not to think the worst about such things. Not that it is Harry’s fault, or indeed, anything to do with him at all.

His commitment to his game and to his club and country has always been exemplary. He’s developed into not just a phenomenal striker but also a brilliant provider. This isn’t a role that many, if any, perform well. To state the obvious, it is hard to create goals for others and score them yourself as well but last season’s 14 assists and 23 goals in the Premier League show that is exactly what he does.

Some players seem like instinctively great footballers who are born to it. Harry doesn’t. His success seems purely the product of incredible hard work and dedication. At some point he just totally dedicated himself to being the best and pursued that goal with intensity and ruthlessness.

For a very modern player, playing a very modern role, there is nonetheless something quite timeless about him. Maybe he is a familiar sort of archetype: the big lad up front who scores loads of goals. However, he has refined the role massively and very much made the dual role of scorer and assist machine all his own.


What the people say
A bursting mailbag this week, as everyone wants to share their Harry love. We start, as ever, with a lovely 4_4_haiku:

‘He’s really good at manufacturing fouls.’

‘When he first broke into the first team, I thought that if you were to combine Andros Townsend and Harry Kane you would end up with 2 players: one quick and tricky with an excellent shot and brilliant decision making, and one with the opposite characteristics. Wven as a youngster his decision making was invariably spot on even if the execution wasn’t.’

‘A player who is easy to like, perhaps because he is more of a hardworking Harry than a Flash Harry.’

‘On tour before his breakthrough season, he saw a senior pro ask the press officer to bat away media requests. Kane said: “Never tell the media I’m too busy – I want to learn how to be the best I can at every aspect of this.”  And he has been true to his word ever since. #Respect.’

‘Genuinely nice bloke.’

‘Won Young Player of the Season at Millwall in 2012. Was very humble during his time at the club and never let the success go to his head; he’s clearly been working hard on his game ever since!’

‘His mental resilience is wildly underestimated.’

‘Something about him that is not very aesthetically pleasing about how he plays.  But by Christ is he good? If Mbappe is Gower, then Kane is Boycott. Hope that makes sense.”

‘Someone’s opinion on Kane is very much a barometer for their football knowledge/worth as a person.  If they slag him off, one or both of those things is probably defective.’

‘Ever since we first heard the name Harry Kane he’s not been good enough for some people, he just shuts them up one after another with goals, goals, goals. Seems likeable and intelligent. Manager material for sure if he wants it.’

‘Kane was written off by 70% of Spurs fans when he first broke through. Too slow and not exciting, it was said. Hard work, determination and natural striker instinct made many of us look like muppets and deservedly so. The best Spurs player for a generation and deserved legendary status.’

‘He’s a genuinely elite player, who obviously just loves playing football. Definitely won’t see him falling out of a club at 3am. Does boil a lot of peoples p*ss, never sure why to be honest.’

‘His career has an interesting arc. Clearly worked hard early on and showed an underrated ability to adapt, accepting and acknowledging gaps in his own game. Suspect he’s always had to think how he can best impact games and it’s become a real virtue as he’s lost some of his pace and earlier physicality.’

‘He’s a good example of natural talent only being part of the package. There will have been plenty of players in his age group touted as being more talented yet his mentality has seen him excel.’

‘Maybe be nice to see him fall over a bit less mind!’

‘His finishing is the difference, head, left foot, right foot. He hits the inside netting. Not a wonder kid, not a big signing, he impressed in training. A classic case of a player succeeding against the odds.’


Three great moments
THAT penalty, shot from the crowd. I thought David Baddiel’s idea was good, that this showed the conscious and the subconscious player. Self-conscious, inhibited and pressured into taking the penalty poorly, but then the subconscious kicks in and without evening thinking, he pounces on it and slots home without even looking:

His first goal for England back in 2015 v Lithuania, and look who set it on a plate for him:

The assists impress as much as the goals:


Future days
If he does join Manchester City, it is hard not to see him scoring at least 85 goals per season and making 65 assists, so dominant will he be. Traditionally, players are said to reach their peak at 27 and 28, so is it all downhill from next year for Harry? That seems doubtful given his fitness regime. However he has, by common consent, been flogged like an old carthorse by Spurs and England too. As a result, there is always a moment in each season when he conks out, something goes ouch and he has to be out for a few weeks, then tends to come back too early and goes into the plodding through treacle mode while he gets some oil in his engine again.

Hopefully, Guardiola will have spotted this Groundhog Day tradition and will rest him appropriately so that he breaks the cycle.

Harry’s an easy man to like. There appears no side to him and you won’t find him with rope and an orange in his mouth in a hotel room, unless it’s for a bit of extra vitamin C. And there is nothing at all wrong with being decent and respectable. In that, Gareth Southgate must see some of his own quiet sensibilities in his captain and notably kept faith with him when he was out of form and struggling.

On Radio 4’s ‘Deadringers’ programme, the fella doing the impression of Harry portrays him as a sort of simpleton, mouthing meaningless PR with an exaggerated (what we used to call) speech impediment. That always seemed a bit unfair and awkward. No-one could have served his country better than Harry and to take the piss out of him for not being the reincarnation of Peter Eustinov (ask your grandpa) seems a little shallow.

He currently sponsors Orient. Which is a unique sort of thing to do to help support the club that gave him his professional start. The sponsorship has been donated to charities which will receive 10% of the proceeds of shirt sales. The home shirt shows a thank you message to the NHS frontline workers tackling the pandemic, the away shirt sporting a logo of Haven House Children’s Hospice, while the third kit features the mental health charity Mind. Aw.

Leyton Orient's shirt

At almost 28, he can reasonably expect to have a good eight to ten years in the game to rack up more records. In his later career, clearly he can drop deeper and dedicate himself to being some version of a 10. It’s not like he’s got bags of pace to lose and that should ensure his career is a long one. He also seems like the sort of player that would happily play on, even slipping down a division or two just to keep playing, as he doesn’t have a grain of the Billy Big Bollocks about him.

The last ten years have seen him rise to the peak of the English game. The next ten should see him consolidate his legend and ensure his place in history.