Kane has come a long way since an inauspicious debut against Hearts, says Andrew Warshaw
HARRY Kane wears his heart on his sleeve but it’s White Hart Lane rather than Heart of Midlothian where his allegiance undoubtedly lies, although England’s new scoring sensation made his debut against the team from Tynecastle back in August, 2011.
It was in a Europa League qualification round tie that Kane, a teenage academy product with bags of ambition but little idea where his career would take him, took the first tentative steps on the road to what would prove a remarkable success story.
Brought into a deliberately weakened Tottenham side after the Londoners had won the first leg 5-0 at Tynecastle, Kane hardly pulled up any trees that night. In a 0-0 draw he had a penalty saved by Jamie MacDonald and had to wait until the following December to score his first Tottenham goal.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
This afternoon Kane, still as modest as they come despite being the Premier League’s leading scorer with 24 goals in all competitions, lines up against big-spending Chelsea in the League Cup final hoping to strike a blow for home-grown players. Chants of “he’s one of our own” are certain to cascade around half of Wembley as Mauricio Pochettino’s young side attempt to upset the form book just as they did against the same opponents in that euphoric 5-3 league victory at White Hart Lane a few weeks ago when Kane netted twice.
By any standards, north or south of the border – or anywhere in Europe for that matter – Kane’s progress has been Roy of the Rovers stuff. Despite a year at Arsenal (mention it quietly, he was only eight at the time), he grew up worshipping his beloved Tottenham without knowing whether he would ever break through. Loan spells at Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester showed promise but only when Tim Sherwood gave him his chance last season and he blossomed further under Pochettino did Kane – who is compared to both Alan Shearer for power and balance and Teddy Sheringham for hold-up play – become the club’s undisputed No.1 striker ahead of £25 million Roberto Soldado and misfit Emanuel Adebayor. He can do just about the lot – and cost nothing. Unlike most of today’s opponents.
“There is a lot of money in football these days and, if a team haven’t got an answer, they always seem to just go and buy someone,” says Kane, one of four academy products likely to start for Tottenham today. “But we have young players here like me, Ryan [Mason], Andros [Townsend] and Nabil [Banteleb] who have shown you don’t always have to buy players. There are young academy players who are good enough but who don’t get their chance on the big stage. Fortunately for us we did.”
Kane hopes such a philosophy will rub off on other Tottenham hopefuls. “When you see a player who has come though the ranks go through and make it all the way, it definitely helps. It gives them that ambition to do the same and have that drive. I think self-belief is a massive thing in football. If you don’t believe in yourself not many others will. Work hard and believe in yourself and you will go as far as your body will take you.”
In Kane’s case, the sky’s the limit. “I’ve had setbacks and injuries, but that is part of football and it is how you deal with it. I always had belief that I was going to play for Tottenham Hotspur. Even when I went out on loan, it was always to come back and become a Spurs player.”
He knows his team will start firm underdogs today and that Jose Mourinho’s star-studded side will be thirsty for revenge after what happened in the league. “Chelsea are Chelsea. They are buying a lot of players, but maybe they will watch us and start looking to the academy and see what players they have there.”
Someone, perhaps, like Kane who can’t even contemplate leaving White Hart Lane. “If I was at Tottenham in ten years’ time and still playing, I’d be very proud and very honoured. I love the club. I love playing here and hopefully I can continue for years to come.”
John Terry, of course, has said the same about Chelsea, but, as his love affair with one club could soon be coming to an end, Kane’s is just beginning. He still talks like a star-struck fan as he cites the people who have inspired him so far. Players like his “world-class” hero, David Beckham, former team-mates Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe, and Pochettino. But most of all, his mum and dad who will be there this afternoon just as they were the last time Spurs reached a Wembley final eight years ago – also the League Cup, also against Chelsea.
Kane was there too – as a fan – and how he’d love a repeat of the 2-1 scoreline. “I was there with the family and it was great to see Spurs lift the trophy. It is something I have been thinking about this week. That would be something special.”
While the Premier League leaders have had a week to prepare, Spurs will take the field just 68 hours after being knocked out of the Europa League by Fiorentina on Thursday. That was regarded as the first of back-to-back cup finals and was a massive disappointment. Wembley is the second and Pochettino will hope his team play with the same youthful zest they have done all season, not always successfully but always whole-heartedly.
Until this season Tottenham were something of a soft touch against the big boys, but victories over Chelsea and Arsenal have changed that mentality. “Maybe the league win gives us confidence knowing that we beat them and scored five goals,” says Kane. “That will probably be at the back of their minds, but then they beat us 3-0 at home, so they will have that in their minds as well. It’s going to be two good teams going head to head.”
Chelsea might be without the highly influential midfielder, Nemanja Matic, but Kane is playing that down. “They have a great squad and have players who can come in very well. It’s all about what we can do. Even if we go a goal behind, we know we can come back.”
Indeed, Tottenham have taken more points from losing positions than any other Premier League team this season. Invariably Kane has been the saviour and it is little surprise that, even at 21, he has already taken on hero status. “I was a fan once and I’m happy to sign autographs and have pictures,” he says.
Soon he could be doing the same in an England shirt. It seems certain Roy Hodgson will name Kane in his squad for this month’s games against Lithuania and Italy. “If I get the call it will be a very proud moment for me and my family. But, right now, I’m just doing my best for Tottenham Hotspur.”
Harry Kane was speaking at a Tottenham Hotspur Foundation event highlighting the Education and Football Development Centre programme, which provides Academy-standard coaching alongside BTEC and FA level qualifications to create life changing opportunities to young people aged 16-18 not in education, employment or training. For more info, visit tottenhamhotspur.com/foundation