Harry Kane insists that neither lack of fitness nor speculation about his future at Tottenham were the reasons for his disappointing start to Euro 2020.
Kane was replaced in England’s opening victory over Croatia and their irresistible 0-0 result against Scotland after poor performances in both games.
The performances of the English captain were surprising considering that he enjoyed an impressive season with the Spurs, leading the Premier League standings for goals and assists, despite the torments of his club.
And while he suffered several ankle injuries during the campaign, he returned from the latest from almost two months ago and was a regular Spurs player until the end of the season.
Kane won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup – a factor that only added to his expectations at Euro 2020 – and while he admits he got tired in Russia three years ago, he says it’s not a problem this time around.
“Gareth [Southgate] is within its rights to make the changes it deems best for the team, “Kane said The Guardian when asked about his reaction to the substitution in the English games so far.
“What we have learned during the past tournaments is an attempt to reach the peak at the right time. The best time to peak is in the knockout phase and we hope to move on from there.
“Maybe there was a time in Russia, towards the quarter and semi-finals, when I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be. In the end we didn’t get where we wanted to go, maybe in part for that reason.
“It’s about managing the team, making sure everyone feels as ready and sharp as possible. In my case, it was a couple of tough games and I needed to make sure I was right for the others.
“I didn’t have any problems. Physically, I didn’t feel like I didn’t feel like it. I felt as good about getting into those games as I did all season, to be honest.”
Although Kane was one of the prominent players in the Premier League during the 2020/21 season, the Spurs endured a tough campaign, finishing seventh in the table, with no trophies or a manager, firing Jose Mourinho in April.
The club was also shaken by the news that Kane told them he wanted to leave this summer due to their failure to compete regularly for – and win – trophies.
Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea are thought to want to sign the striker, but despite his future promising to be one of the main actions of this transfer window this summer, Kane says it does not affect his international performance.
“Absolutely not,” he insisted. “My whole focus is on how I can help this team and how we can be successful in this tournament.
“I understand from a media point of view it’s speculation, but I’m totally focused on the business here.”
Sky Sports’ Pete Gill
There were suggestions or two before Euro 2020 that Harry Maguire was England’s most important player instead of Harry Kane, as the Manchester United captain was a performer they couldn’t do without this summer.
Two matches in, and Maguire’s absence in the event of consecutive clean sheets begins to fade in potential repercussions in relation to England’s troubling Harry Kane problem.
Even shocking statistics of Kane’s contribution, or lack thereof, against Scotland tells only half the story. Yes, there were only 19 touches. No, he really hadn’t shot at a target all night before his replacement. But what was even more alarming was the pedestrian and heavy style of his exhibition. ‘Leggy’ is the standard football vernacular. ‘Slow’ is a word in everyday speech. In an English depiction that lacked intensity and zip, Kane was the personification.
A particularly troubling moment was in the second half when Luke Shaw broke into the penalty area. The English left-back only had a brief moment to assess the situation and seek support. What he would see was a blue wall in front of him. Where was Kane? Behind the heels, a statue, unreachable at the back door behind two Scottish defenders. Understandably, Shaw went for the shot and could hardly be blamed when the ball floated harmlessly. As for Kane, the lack of movement and lack of threat definitely didn’t look like Kane.
Is he carrying an injury? Or was he simply weighed down by anticipation?
Another question that inevitably arises is whether Gareth Southgate would dare to omit Kane from the starting lineup against the Czech Republic on Tuesday. Certainly not. Southgate, after all, is instinctively loyal to their players – a look that was richly rewarded just a week ago when Raheem Sterling scored the only goal against Croatia.
But every question about Kane’s position in the English team misses the point or at least the point of the problem. Because England’s problem isn’t just or simply that they have a player out of form. A far bigger problem is that without Kane in form it is very difficult to see England go much further. What we saw on Friday night was England without Kane, and that wasn’t nice.
I can’t do without him.