A battle-hardened Harry Kane speaks to Alex Christian about his phenomenal rise and how he can lead the line at Euro 2016
Considering where he was less than 18 months ago, and considering where he is now, Harry Kane must have developed some unshakeable self-belief and mental toughness along the way.
A product of Tottenham’s academy, he spent the start of his career on loan at the likes of Leyton Orient and Leicester City – where he scored just twice in 15 Championship games. At the beginning of last season he was back at Spurs, warming the bench. It was time for him to toughen up and be the man he wanted to be. He didn’t seem to be blessed with the speed of a 21-year-old, nor the power to lead the line. No one could see Kane becoming the player he is today. That is, apart from Kane.
Thrust into a struggling side, Kane transformed into the complete striker, netting 31 goals along the way for Spurs. Inevitably, England came calling. With the kind of season he had, it was little surprise he scored 79 seconds into his debut, in a 4-0 European Championship qualifier win against Lithuania at Wembley. Now, he’s set to play centre forward for the Three Lions at the Euros this summer.
But if he thinks getting to this point was hard work it’s nothing compared to what he’ll face during 2016 thanks to the pressures of the tournament, especially with a ‘Battle of Britain’ group game with Wales thrown in. This is the year we’ll see what Kane is made of.
ShortList meets Kane at Tottenham’s training ground in Enfield. Moments before, the 22-year-old was doing keepy-uppies with former Spurs/England legend Glenn Hoddle for a TV promo as part of their roles as BT Sport ambassadors. Off the ball, Kane is stoic but relaxed. With what he has to look forward to in France this summer, it’ll hold him in good stead.
From seemingly out of nowhere you’ve become one of the country’s leading strikers. How did you do it?
I think going on loan and getting experience of first-team football at such a young age really helped [Kane was a 17-year-old at Orient]. When I came back to Tottenham in 2013 I wanted to stay and fight for my place. Tim Sherwood became manager soon afterwards. I had a great relationship with him from my days in the youth side.
Is there one moment you think was crucial to your development as a player?
The following summer, Mauricio Pochettino became manager and I worked on my strength and power. It’s a big reason why I’ve done so well since.
Did you ever doubt you’d make it?
Not really. Even when I was on loan I always wanted to come back as a Spurs player and work to get in the side. I had to wait for my chance in the Premier League, but once I scored a few goals, I just kept going; 2015 was a crazy year and I loved it.
You’ve just been showboating outside with Glenn Hoddle – is today one of those crazy days?
Yeah, a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed I’d be doing anything like that. It shows how far I’ve come – this is where I want to be. I want to be playing for England in big tournaments; I want to be up there scoring goals, winning things.
Hoddle was England manager at the France ’98 World Cup – was that the first tournament you remember watching?
No, I’m too young! The 2002 World Cup was my first one. I remember the England-Argentina game. Pochettino brought Michael Owen down for the penalty that Beckham put away. He absolutely hates that. Someone brought it up recently. He didn’t find it funny.
How different is it for players going from club football to international football?
Playing European away games for Spurs has helped me get used to it. You have to adapt. I remember when Spurs played PAOK in Greece. I was 18. The atmosphere was unbelievable. We walked out more than an hour before kick-off and the stadium was packed. We got booed and whistled. Throughout the game flares went off and lasers from the crowd went in your face. It holds you in good stead for international football.
How have you found the transition to international football?
It’s just different. When you’re at a club, the fans sing your name. When you play for England there are 18 more players in the squad who are all fan favourites at their clubs. I was lucky – when I made my debut at Wembley I got quite a big roar from the crowd.
What do you remember about your England debut?
I was so excited. I remember running on the pitch, and before I knew it I was heading the ball, back post and it hit the back of the net. I think it was 79 seconds from when I came on. It’s quite surreal looking back on it.
Have you been thinking about the Euros in France?
It’s always in the back of my mind. I don’t want to just go to the Euros, I want to be starting at the Euros. That’s my aim. There’s a lot of hard work between now and then, though.
How do you feel about England vs Wales?
It’s something to look forward to. There’s always a good atmosphere at any game against the home nations. Wales did so well in their qualification campaign. It’s a game the fans and players can look forward to.
Spurs fans’ chant for you is “Harry Kane, he’s one of our own”. What do you want England fans to chant for you instead?
They can chant that! Though they’d have to sing it for everyone I guess [laughs].
Watch Tottenham vs Sunderland live on BT Sport 1 from 12pm on Saturday 16 January; sport.bt.com