Harry Kane can prove naysayers wrong with big-match performance against Scotland

Harry Kane and Gareth Southgate - GETTY
Harry Kane and Gareth Southgate - GETTY

If there was any doubting Harry Kane’s confidence as he prepares for the type of game that normally brings out the very best in him, then it certainly did not come across as he assessed Scotland’s first performance in the European Championship.

Having seen Patrik Schick score from 50 yards for the Czech Republic against Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall, Kane said he was ready to try his own version of the goal-of-the-tournament contender.

“Every now and then I will look for that one,” Kane said. “The keepers today like to play as sweepers waiting for that ball in between, so if there is a ricochet or an opening, I like to try and look for that one. You never know, we might get another one in this tournament.”

Preparing for Friday night’s visit of Scotland to Wembley, those were not the words of a man worrying about his place, despite admitting that he was not untouchable, or staying up at night wondering about how deep he should drop.

With Raheem Sterling offering the sort of pace he feeds off from Son Heung-min at Spurs, the notion that Kane needs to play any differently for his country than he does for his club does not yet stack up.

Harry Kane of England applaus the crowd as he is substitute during the UEFA EURO 2020 group D preliminary round soccer match between England and Croatia in London, Britain, 13 June 2021. Group D England vs Croatia, London, United Kingdom - 13 Jun 2021 - Andy Rain/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Harry Kane of England applaus the crowd as he is substitute during the UEFA EURO 2020 group D preliminary round soccer match between England and Croatia in London, Britain, 13 June 2021. Group D England vs Croatia, London, United Kingdom - 13 Jun 2021 - Andy Rain/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Sterling scored for the first time in a major tournament against Croatia and Kane is happy to share the goalscoring burden. “I was really happy for Raz,” Kane told ITV. “I think if we are going to win this tournament, if we are going to go far in the tournament, we need everyone doing well, everyone scoring and getting assists. For me and the whole squad, I want everyone playing well, scoring goals or affecting games, and Raz provided a great finish at the weekend.”

Such is the expectation placed on Kane’s shoulders these days that any game without a goal or even the smallest deviation from his best form will prompt a debate, however many times he has made his critics eat their words. Kane won the Premier League Golden Boot this season, with 23 goals, and chalked up the most assists, so no wonder his England team-mates and manager Gareth Southgate are wondering why people are asking questions.

Throw in Kane’s record in derby games and the argument for backing him to open his tournament account against Scotland grows stronger. Not only is Kane the highest goalscorer in north London derbies, for Tottenham against Arsenal, with 11, he has also netted more goals in London derbies than any other player. His 38 goals against London opposition is 18 more than Olivier Giroud.

And that ability to take his game to an even higher level in domestic derbies has already translated to the international stage, as it was Kane who scored England’s late equaliser against Scotland four years ago.

Asked about the debate surrounding whether Kane had dropped too deep against Croatia, defender Tyrone Mings said: “I find it really irrelevant because, honestly, I think he’s one of the best players in the world.

“I also played against him in the second to last game of the season [for Aston Villa] against Tottenham and, certainly, when he does drop in he’s not a player you can just let drop in, because if he turns and faces you up he can also pick out pretty much any pass he wants to.

“When he does drop in it really is not easy for a centre-half to go with, because you feel like you are going into a situation or an area of the pitch that you don’t really want to go into. It then opens space in behind, where you see we got in quite a few times on Sunday as well, so I can’t speak highly enough of him as a player and a captain. So the question marks around him are background noise.”

Dominic Calvert-Lewin is in the difficult position of being the man behind Kane in the England pecking order, but the Everton striker insists he will be ready if called upon. “I just make sure I am ready,” Calvert-Lewin said. “Harry is the captain of the team and he is the man leading the line at the moment. At the start of the game, I wish him all the best and want him to score. If he scores it’s more than likely we win games.

“He’s got attributes that perhaps I can add into my game. Perhaps he looks at me and thinks he might be able to take a bit from me as well.

“From a young boy, I dreamed of playing for my country and coming to a major tournament, and as a young kid you dream of playing, perhaps not sitting on the bench. But if that’s my role then so be it, and I’ll do it to the best of my ability.”

Kane: I know I'm not untouchable in this England team

Harry Kane has claimed that he is not untouchable despite being England captain and the country’s sixth all-time leading goalscorer.

England manager Gareth Southgate praised Kane’s performance against Croatia, despite the fact he did not score and was substituted towards the end of the game.

Kane will start against Scotland at Wembley on Friday night, but the Tottenham Hotspur star does not consider his place safe no matter what.

Asked by ITV if he is undroppable, Kane said: “You will have to ask Gareth, but I never look at it that way. We have great competition for places.

“Dominic Calvert-Lewin has come in and done great. For me, it is about training how I train every day, try and be the best and try and improve every day and, when I play, try and give my best for the team.

“I think that is what everyone is doing at the moment and I am sure there will be rotation among all the players in this tournament and everyone is waiting for the chance to try and make an impact.”

Pushed on whether or not he really believes he could start an England game on the substitutes’ bench, Kane added: “Well that is not my decision. I will train as hard as I can to play and that is the aim to try and lead the boys out and win the games.”

Kane was speaking after Jamie Carragher wrote in his Telegraph Sport column on Monday that Sunday’s triumph proved he is no longer one of Southgate’s “untouchables” like he was at the 2018 World Cup.

Kane faced Croatia less than 24 hours after his former Tottenham team-mate Christian Eriksen had suffered a cardiac arrest while playing for Denmark, which paused England’s preparations for their first game.

“I texted him, but haven’t got a response yet, obviously,” said Kane. “He is going under some tests. My wife managed to speak to his wife and she said, obviously, they are doing ok, they are going through the checks.

“It was a scary time for him and his family as well. It was dreadful to watch. Like I said at the weekend, I am wishing him all the best and his family all the best, and I am hoping he makes a speedy recovery.

“Sometimes we take things for granted and we take football for granted and life for granted. That was a reminder that things can be taken away so quickly.

“Like we said, it was a dreadful thing to watch and experience. For us it is just about enjoying this experience, enjoying this tournament and going out there with no fear. We want to win, we are all winners, we are passionate to win - just express yourself and enjoy the occasion because they don’t come around too often.”

Jack Grealish did not train with the rest of the England squad on Tuesday, instead working on his own in the gym, but Kane insisted there is nothing to worry about over the Aston Villa player, who missed three months of the domestic season with a shin problem.

“Jack is good,” said Kane. “It is just one of those where they are just managing him a little bit. He didn't play too much at the back end of the season, like always in these tournaments you need to manage certain players at that is all it is with Jack. I am sure he will be training tomorrow [Wednesday].”

It is understood defender John Stones also missed part of Tuesday’s training, although that could have been part of his recovery regime after the Croatia game in which he received treatment for an injury.

England have called Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale into the squad after Manchester United’s Dean Henderson was forced to pull out because of a hip injury. The change means West Bromwich Albion’s Sam Johnstone is deputy to Jordan Pickford.

Henderson posted a message on Twitter that said: “I worked so hard to be in this position. I’m Devastated to have to withdraw through injury!! I want to wish my team-mates all the best for the up and coming games. BRING IT HOME.”