Now this is a conversation I have had with my friends over the years, it always crops up around international tournament time and yes that circle includes a Spurs supporting friend who vehemently denies the claim and counters with the accusation I have a bias in my argument.
It’s something I would always struggle to clear given my allegiance to the Arsenal but if the rose tinted glasses are removed and replaced with I guess a Saint George’s flag print sunglass then hopefully you can understand my thought process.
The timing of the discussion couldn’t be better timed as we head into a clash with Germany which could make or break our charge to the European Championships final. Following a very underwhelming contribution in the group stage Harry Kane really needs to come with the goods and 1. Prove to himself that the Spurs trophy barren spell can’t be contributed to his tendency to go missing in the biggest games with the most riding on them.
2. Prove to Europe and the rest of the world on the grand stage that he is the elite striker we hail him as in the Premier League and not someone who is a good fit around better players but not a talisman that leads by example and wins the biggest games on his own (minus penalties).
So what is the point you are trying to make I hear you ask. Well depending on your age you tend to look back on tournaments of the past and have various memories etched into your memory banks of moments of individual brilliance that changed or won games. The moments you look back and say that’s what made me fall in love with the game.
Sometimes it’s from your own country, who can forget David Platt at Italia ’90 with that game changing winning volley against the Belgians? How about more recently that Gazza goal against the Scots in Euro ’96?
Interestingly I saw a segment prior to our recent game against Scotland and Rashford and Foden were viewing footage of that goal and admitted having vague memories of it but a lot of history they didn’t know was revealed by the presenter such as the dentist chair celebration. Firstly it made me feel old but also made me realise how well it was remembered by those who witnessed it at the time. Iconic and goes down in legend as a great moment for England.
Yes it was just a group game but the sheer brilliance was memorable. There are always two things we remember the individual brilliance or THAT moment that turned a defeat into an all square situation or turned a draw into a victory.
Those old enough to remember will recall Gary Lineker as quite a handy striker and not just the TV personality we see today and would remember some critical important goals Lineker would deliver when England’s hopes laid at his feet in international tournaments (‘86 and ‘90 come to mind).
Yeah but if he was so good why didn’t he win us the whole tournament you may ask.
Well the best can only do so much. The best teams more so that individuals win the biggest tournaments for most countries (shhhh Greece).
But there are many teams that may have not gone all the way but their stars, their Talismen delivered for them at key moments along their journey.
Think Cristiano Ronaldo always pulling it out of the bag for Portugal, think of Histro Stoichkov heroics leading Bulgaria to World Cup ’94 semi finals, Think Luca Modric producing for country leading to a World Cup Final and Player of The Tournament gong, Think even a youthful Wayne Rooney taking the international stage by storm at Euro ’04. Zidane, Xavi and Iniesta the list could go on and on.
So I’m not just talking about individual isolated memorable moments but also the Star men, the headliners of a country delivering on the biggest stage for their country and proving why they were touted as such.
Now let’s turn our attentions to Harry Kane. He’s had two international tournaments under his belt now. Lead the line and yes walked away with personal accolade of Golden boot at the 2018 World Cup. But now putting you on the spot tell me that key moment you remember from Harry Kane that told the World (or even just you) Harry has arrived? That key moment in a game with everything riding on it he rose above his peers and dragged his country to victory?
Group games are important in the sense that if you do the business you then get to the meaty part of knockout football. Harry Kane has delivered plenty in group games but are they really considered the tension heavy games where everything counts? Apart from a final group game requiring a result to qualify, they generally are the ones where personal tallies can stack up.
In Euro 2016 he was the main man but I don’t believe he scored a goal in the tournament. Wayne Rooney was on penalty duties in those days so Harry had to deliver the old fashioned way. After navigating past the group stage Iceland awaited and we all know how that went down. As one of the star men he was missing when it mattered most.
Fast forward to World Cup 2018 and yes he came with the goals alright. In group games he put the might of Tunisia and Panama to the sword. Built up a healthy goal record and was rested against decent opposition in Belgium. In the knockouts he got the opening penalty goal against Columbia followed by blanks against Sweden and Croatia. The Sweden game not so much a reason to criticise as it’s a game that we all expected England to win. Against Croatia in the semi finals, the first real quality opposition we faced, that was the game where the Elite are expected to deliver. That was the game with everything poised we needed our talisman to provide and yet the only memorable moment from Harry Kane all England fans remember was him not squaring the ball to Raheem Sterling to make it 2-0 and potentially seal the game. We went out, Kane went missing again and the rest is history.
This time around in 2021 Kane hasn’t even delivered in the group stages but the door is open for him to bury all the criticism and provide a performance or key goals to take England past Germany.
My argument is more so to the fact Harry Kane hasn’t delivered yet for England but he still has time to prove otherwise. Until then his CV reads: scored loads v Panama and won Golden boot, went missing when needed most.
Until he does deliver when it matters I could reuse this article tournament upon tournament until he does.
I’m not biased at all. Just telling it as it is.
This post has also featured on Gunners Town site which I write for.