Last Saturday, I was in the Park Lane end at White Hart Lane, watching Spurs play Leicester. It finished 4-3 and any match with that scoreline, to get all @footballcliches, obligatorily has to be labelled a ‘seven goal thriller’ by commentators and match report writers.
This match wasn’t really a thriller though, more a series of ever increasing defensive cock ups. Leicester gave away a daft penalty and one, possibly two own goals. Spurs conceded thrice, to respectively a forward who hadn’t scored in five months, a lumpy centre half who’d never scored a Premier League goal and David Nugent who at kick off had the lethal goalscoring rate of eleven goals in eighty one Premier League games.
Phil Tufnell, fielding on the boundary once in Australia, was asked by a wag in the crowd to ‘lend me your brain, I’m building an idiot’. Any idiot builders would have loved to have got their hands on Kyle Walker’s brain, such was his performance. Somehow, it was rewarded with an England call-up. Does that make Roy Hodgson an idiot builder?
It was a weird game generally – odd goals, abnormal levels of cold for this time of year and most surprising of all, a good performance from Paulinho coming off the bench. A vast change from the man who for most of his time at Spurs looked no more likely to pen a bestselling novel than put in a performance that would get more than 6.9 on Football Manager.
The game was memorable for a hat-trick by Harry Kane. At the ground, the reception to his hat-trick was warm but it wasn’t overwhelming. The ‘he’s one of our own chants’ struggled to get going, the volume was muted. It was akin more to nods of approval at a decent support act than crazed moshing at the chorus of a band’s best song.
Harry Kane 13/10
Diego Costa 8/5
Sergio Aguero 5/2
(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)
There were a few reasons for this. Firstly, for Spurs at least, the game didn’t mean a whole lot. The top four’s a distant hope, they’re out of the cup competitions and all a strong end to the season does is make it more likely Spurs end up in football purgatory (the Europa League) again next season. Also, Kane’s triumvirate of goals were not especially thrilling. A tap-in from a corner, a heavily deflected shot and a penalty. Dennis Bergkamp v Leicester or Tony Yeboah v Wimbledon it wasn’t.
Plus, the game lacked quality, there were long stoppages in play for knocks to Hugo Lloris and Eric Dier and it was bloody cold. By the seventy five minute mark any observer who walked into White Hart Lane would have seen fans with their coats zipped up to the neck, hands in pockets, shaking in their seats, trying to retain their last vestiges of warmth.
Perhaps more than anything though, Harry Kane scoring a hat-trick wasn’t remotely surprising. Such are his achievements at the moment that the ridiculous becomes plausible on a weekly basis.
The stats are ridiculous. Kane didn’t start a Premier League game till November 9th against Stoke. His first league goal of the season only came the week before, a deflected free kick winner at Villa Park.
Since then, he’s scored nineteen league goals. Nineteen! That includes five goals in his last three, eleven goals in his last eight. In four months, he’s gone from not scoring a league goal to being the league’s top scorer. For the season, he has twenty nine goals in forty three games.
While that rate of goalscoring is not uncommon, I doubt anyone in the Premier League era has had such a good season with so few expectations. He started off the season as Tottenham’s third choice striker, in a team that only plays with one forward. His role was as backup for league games, perhaps making occasional appearances off the bench. Cup games were to be his bread and butter. Some decent performances under Tim Sherwood at the fag end of last season had cemented his role as a squad player.
Two games this season were pivotal to his development, as he morphed from just another squad player to this superhero figure he’s become lately.
The first was the Europa League group fixture versus Asteras of Greece. It had all the makings of a dull encounter – Europa League group games tend to be about as exciting as an episode of Fred Dibnah’s World of Steam.
Not this one though. Erik Lamela scored one of the most outrageously brilliant goals of all time and Kane scored a hat-trick, his first for Spurs.
His hat-trick though wasn’t the most memorable thing he did that night. In the match’s dying embers, Hugo Lloris got sent off for taking out an Asteras forward who was through on goal. All substitutions had been used up. So we got to witness one of football’s underrated pleasures, an outfield player going in goal.
And who volunteered to put on the purple goalkeeping jersey and don the gloves? Super Harry Kane of course! It didn’t even matter he let in the resultant free kick. Scoring a hat-trick and going in goal, voluntarily, in the same game endeared him to the Spurs support, who perhaps witnessed in this Chingford-born, lumpy forward with an unorthodox gait and hangdog facial expressions, a kindred spirit. Who hasn’t fancied going in goal for the lols occasionally?
With consistently good cup performances and increasing calls for his place in the starting XI from the stands, aided by Emmanuel Adebayor’s Emmanuel Adebayor-ness and Roberto Soldado’s continued hopelessness, he got into the first team. He did well – four goals in his first nine starts, with his workrate making him an excellent fit with the high pressing style Mauricio Pochettino has imposed at Spurs.
But it was the game against Chelsea on New Year’s Day where he morphed again, this time from decent Premier League forward to fully fledged superhero. With Spurs 1-0 down, struggling against the usual robotic display from Mourinho’s players he scored a ridiculously good equaliser. He got the ball on the touchline, worked his way past three or four defenders into the middle of the pitch, then unleashed a scuttling shot that beat Thibaut Courtois at the near post from twenty five yards out.
Chelsea seemed stunned. They played like it too, coming apart at the seams under increasing Spurs pressure. What looked like another humdrum victory for the league leaders became a 5-3 rout for Spurs, in spite of Eden Hazard playing like a sober, Belgian Maradona. Kane didn’t stop running, doing things to Gary Cahill’s confidence that could take years to rebuild. His second goal that night too was outrageously good. A wonderfully dextrous touch and turn, then a lovely side footed finish. A touch of genius.
After that, he’s been this superhero figure that football watchers are still grappling to come to terms with. He scored twice against Arsenal, the second goal being one of the best headers I’ve ever seen. Leaning backwards, from a good twelve yards out, to power a looping a header over Ospina in the Arsenal like he did almost defied physics. And a homegrown product scoring to win the game over the local rivals too, just amazing. He did something that day that kids dream of doing. In real life.
What he’s achieved is remarkable. What adds to this is how he looks and often acts like the antithesis of the modern day superstar footballer. He has this gangly gait, more befitting a spotty teenager than a Premier League player. His default facial expression is that of a gormless farmhand. He talks like his tongue’s too big. West Ham fans got in trouble for a chant about him recently.
But that makes him all the more loveable. He’s not some super-athlete with muscles the size of watermelons, jet heels and a lingerie model girlfriend. He looks like you and me. He even plays like faintly you and me, with his boundless energy and chasing of lost causes. Judging from his social media output, he has a very nice life where he plays football, scores goals, goes for celebratory drinks afterwards then goes home to his childhood sweetheart girlfriend and their dogs. He even wears naff Christmas jumpers.
He’s an ordinary guy who just happens to be extraordinarily good at football. A film about him wouldn’t be a glossy, stage managed product but a gritty, documentary style drama. More This Sporting Life than Goal. Indeed, with his incredible achievements against all the odds, he’s like a footballing Forrest Gump.
Where does he go from here? He’ll make his England debut for a start and those that still give two hoots about the England team can only hope that he doesn’t get sucked into the vortex of mediocrity that seemingly envelopes all the young talent that wears the three lions on it’s chest.
Also, he’s a shoo-in for Young Player of the Year with his goalscoring output and all round performances. No one comes to him for that award.
But what about Player of the Year? The natural reaction is to laugh off such talk. Harry Kane does not exactly fit the mould of a serial award winner. He’s not marketable, doesn’t get linked with ridiculous transfer rumours to PSG or Real Madrid on websites’ gossip columns. He doesn’t sound like a star either, with the speech impediment he has.
But who deserves to beat him then? Alexis Sanchez was perhaps the early favourite but has tailed off since Christmas. Aguero missed time with an injury. Diego Costa has looked tired recently, plus his all-round villainy will surely, rightly or wrongly, count against him.
It surely comes down to Kane or Eden Hazard. Hazard’s been, very very good. He’s allied his talent and skill with increased work rate and more end product. The Mourinho effect in Hazard especially, of all of Chelsea’s players, has been noticeable.
Hazard has done that in a star studded outfit, though. He has Cesc Fabregas feeding him the ball with Diego Costa ahead of him. Kane gets his help from Andros Townsend and Ryan Mason. And aside from a brief Christian Eriksen purple patch, he’s had to carry the Spurs goalscoring burden almost single-handedly.
He gets less help than Hazard and does just as much, if not more in terms of end product. Notwithstanding that a reserve forward coming from football’s metaphorical tundra regions to shock the footballing public would be an amazing story. Kane already had consecutive Player of the Month awards before his hat-trick against Leicester.
As Harry himself would say, “Never fucking give up.”
Betting Instinct tip – Harry Kane is 10/3 to open the scoring for England against Lithuania tonight with Coral.co.uk. He is second-favourite for Premier League Player of the Year with most sportsbooks.
JACK HOWES (debaser92) is an avid sports fan who writes about football and Asperger’s Syndrome. The only things he loves more than Mars Bars are his family and Tottenham Hotspur FC.