Harry Kane: England’s goal king
Newly established as England’s record goalscorer, Harry Kane’s place in the history books was earned as much by his perseverance as his lethal finishing.
Kane’s penalty against Italy on Thursday took his tally for his country to 54, passing Wayne Rooney’s mark for the Three Lions.
The 29-year-old also recently moved ahead of the legendary Jimmy Greaves as Tottenham’s all-time top goalscorer.
A career laden with personal milestones is still lacking collective glory.
Kane is yet to win a major trophy for club or country.
But he has played a major role in England’s journey back from the international wilderness to regular contenders for major tournament glory.
For Kane to stand above stellar names such as Rooney, Gary Lineker and Bobby Charlton is all the more remarkable given the doubts that surrounded him at the start of his career.
A cumbersome teenager whose natural goal-scoring gifts had yet to emerge, many doubted he would ever make it at the highest level after he joined Tottenham’s academy in 2009.
There were almost two years between Kane’s first Spurs goal against Shamrock Rovers in 2011 and his next against Hull in 2013.
Temporary moves to Leyton Orient and Millwall provided glimpses of Kane’s potential, but the lowest point of his learning curve came during difficult loan spells at Leicester and Norwich in the 2012-13 season.
Kane failed to score for Norwich and struck just twice for second-tier Leicester.
“That was the lowest time. I was 19, living away from home and not playing. You always have that doubt. If you’re not playing there then how are you ever going to play for Tottenham?” Kane said.
– ‘It’s instinct’ –
Despite his struggles, Kane later heralded dealing with the aggressive physical approach from Championship opponents as an important step in his maturation into one of the world’s best strikers.
“That happened a lot when I was on loan. One defender said, ‘I haven’t got a yellow card yet, I’m gonna use it on you’,” Kane told the Daily Mail.
“The funny thing was that two minutes later we both went up for a header and he ended up winded on the floor. So that made me pretty happy.”
Suitably impressed by Kane’s drive, Mauricio Pochettino, then in the early days of his successful spell as Tottenham boss, trusted his potential enough to select him regularly in the 2014-15 season.
Kane repaid Pochettino’s gamble with a barrage of goals which quickly gained him international recognition.
He scored just seconds into his England debut as a substitute against Lithuania in 2015.
But his first experience of a major tournament was arguably the most embarrassing in England’s history.
Kane failed to score in four appearances at Euro 2016 as Roy Hodgson’s men crashed out to Iceland in the last 16.
That experience meant expectations were low two years later at the World Cup in Russia, where Kane exploded into a global star.
Handed the captaincy by Gareth Southgate, Kane thrived with the extra responsibility as he scored six goals to win the Golden Boot and lead England to the semi-finals for the first time in 28 years.
“It’s instinct, natural,” he added on his predatory instincts in front of goal.
“When that ball drops to me my body takes over and my mind is just blank really.”
Southgate’s side came even closer at Euro 2020 where only defeat on penalties to Italy denied them a first major tournament win since 1966.
More disappointment followed for Kane and country at the World Cup in Qatar.
Normally so reliant from the penalty spot, he fired a vital spot-kick high over the bar in a quarter-final defeat by France.
But that miss only delayed his coronation as England’s new goal king.
The ghosts of that miss in Doha were quickly banished as Kane confidently stepped up to send Gianluigi Donnarumma the wrong way as England made the perfect start to Euro 2024 qualifying with a 2-1 win in Naples.