Gareth Southgate believes Harry Kane has a weight off his shoulders after ending his goal drought for England and is pleased the striker has not allowed Tottenham’s inconsistent form to affect his focus on the international stage.
Although Kane leads the way for goals and assists in the Premier League this season, he has been less potent for his country. In an echo of Alan Shearer going 12 games without finding the net before scoring when England opened Euro 96 by drawing with Switzerland, the Spurs forward had gone six games without scoring before producing a goal and an assist in the 2-0 win over Albania in World Cup qualifying.
Kane’s performance underlined why he is key to England’s hopes at Euro 2020. The captain’s impact leaves England in a strong position before Wednesday’s crucial qualifier against Poland, who will travel to Wembley without Robert Lewandowski after the striker injured a knee in Sunday’s win over Andorra. Southgate, who skilfully dealt with a question about whether the 27-year-old needs to leave Spurs this summer to further his career, said Kane’s leadership had impressed him.
“What’s pleased me about Harry this week is that he’s been super positive about everything,” England’s manager said. “His view of where the club are at – they’re three points off a Champions League place, League Cup final to look forward to. That’s the only thing he’s discussed with me. From our point of view, he’s led the group really well again this week.
“I’m pleased that he’s got his goal. I know it shouldn’t matter but I remember when Alan Shearer was with me as a player and those months without matches add on to that period where you’ve not scored an England goal, which sounds a lot worse than it is at times. It’s good that he was able to bury that. He’s in a good place. He’s physically in a good place and we’re pleased to have him ahead of the game against Poland.”
Kane offers more than deadly finishing. He has also been a creator for Spurs this season, using his passing range to combine with Son Heung-min, but his determination to drop deep during the first half against Albania did not sit well with the pundits analysing the game for ITV.
“Different people have different opinions on the game,” Southgate said. “For example, if Ian Wright was doing the game then Wrighty was always much better on the last line running in behind people or flying into the box. His link play was good but was a different sort of player to Harry so he might have a different view of the role of a No 9 and there’s lots of different ways of playing it.
“Harry senses the moments to drop deep and create space for others and just to give defenders a different problem to think about. His football intelligence is very good. The key is if he is dropping deep then we have to have runners in behind. To mix the game up and give the opposition different things to deal with is fine.”
Southgate likened Kane to Lewandowski, who scored twice for Poland against Andorra, pointing out the Bayern Munich forward often gets involved in the buildup.
“The two are similar in that,” he said. “There are not many outright No 9s in the world at the moment at really elite level. Lukaku is obviously one. The two boys we’re speaking about are. Agüero has been. But you don’t get that profile of forwards so often.
“There’s a lot more of the interchangeable forward players that can play as an inside forward or a wide forward and be devastating in those areas, like Mbappé who can play 9 but is normally just as effective in those wider areas. They’re difficult to come by and when you’ve got one like we have, it’s a fantastic player to have.”