Tuesday 24 October 2017

Southgate hands armband to 'leader' Kane for crunch Scotland clash

Striker set to land full-time captaincy after standing out on Marine training camp

England will hope that Harry Kane is still smiling after captaining them in their World Cup qualifier against Scotland this evening. Photo: Reuters
England will hope that Harry Kane is still smiling after captaining them in their World Cup qualifier against Scotland this evening. Photo: Reuters

Jason Burt

Harry Kane will captain England against Scotland at Hampden Park this evening because he has the "mentality" to "be one of the best in the world".

In a significant move, Gareth Southgate has not just selected Kane to lead his country's attack but asked the striker to lead the team in the first game he is available to play under the new manager.

That Kane has been chosen to do so, in the hostile atmosphere of a World Cup qualifier away to Scotland, would indicate that Southgate wants to continue with him as England's next permanent captain ahead of other candidates such as Gary Cahill and the injured Jordan Henderson.

It seemed inevitable that Kane would eventually become England captain, succeeding Wayne Rooney, who has been eased out of the squad, but it has happened earlier than expected.

And while Southgate has spoken about demystifying the obsession of who wears the armband, the manager conceded that he has now settled on the principle of having a regular captain.

"Yes, I think you have to," Southgate said. "You have to decide: OK, this is what we're going to do. But it was important, and is important at the moment, to develop a group first.

"Then, when we've got strength in various levels of leadership, everybody can see the importance of their role in the team."

Of the qualities of 23-year-old Kane, Southgate explained: "He has a very good view of the game. He's keen to lead.

"I've worked with him at the U-21s and I know his mentality. He wants to be one of the best in the world."

Southgate insisted he was "not looking beyond tomorrow" with the captaincy but, given his admiration for Kane, it would be a surprise if he did not continue with the popular forward if it works out.

Kane was one of the England players who took part in the work-out at the Royal Marines' Commando Training Centre in Devon last weekend.

"You do see (leaders and followers)," said Southgate. "You see it in pretty much every environment you go into, but when people are tired or in a new environment or asked to take on challenges that are different to the norm, you see how people react. It was part of the purpose of going."

Did it convince him about Kane? "We debriefed with the Marines, and some of those contributions and the learnings we took from the weekend were really key," Southgate said.

"You're looking for key input from people, good decision-makers. We need people who will respond in the right way on the pitch at all times.

"In the old days it was about the physical side. It's not the way the game is now. That's one element, but we need people who think clearly and make good decisions."

Southgate evidently rates Kane not just as a person but as a player. "His goals record over the last three seasons speaks for itself," he said.

"When we worked at the U-21s, his finishing was clear. You saw the level of finishing, the likes of Fowler, Scholes, Shearer, and Harry you could see that level of finishing from the first day.

"He's always had the focus about being the best possible player.

"We're culturally shifting to where we'd like to be: in terms of the way we work, the way we carry ourselves, to get the public proud of the team, but also in the way we play to excite the public.

"The players want to play that way, be on the front foot. They have tremendous belief in themselves and the coaching staff have faith in them."

Facing Scotland is not the fixture it was, although there will be a rare old din inside Hampden Park and it could be an uncomfortable and demanding afternoon.

Scotland, fourth in the six-team Group F, are six points behind England, the unbeaten leaders, with five games remaining.

They know they have to get something out of this, while Southgate will be desperate to continue England's progress. Not least with a new captain to lead them. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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