Monday 18 December 2017

Kane's brain setting him apart from future 'stars'

Harry Kane celebrates his winning goal for Tottenham against Arsenal. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Harry Kane celebrates his winning goal for Tottenham against Arsenal. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

He scored five goals in four Premier League games including one that was televised, had pundits purring about his performances and caused a clamour for his inclusion in the international team which arrived soon after. You might remember his name - Saido Berahino?

Given that it was the end of October that the fifth of those goals arrived, Berainho's name shouldn't have completely fallen out of the memory bank but, more recently, his name has popped up for being put off the road for a year because of drink-driving, giving an unauthorised interview in which he spoke about "moving on to better things" and annoying West Brom to the point where they've no interest in starting contract negotiations.

Those who practically demanded that Roy Hodgson pick him have gone quiet, partly because he didn't score for the next 10 games after the one against Crystal Palace but also because they have moved on to the next Young Star Who Deserves An England Call-Up (YSWDAECU) - Harry Kane.

The YSWDAECU pops up several times per season and includes the likes of Jermaine Pennant, Michael Johnson, Aaron Lennon, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Francis Jeffers and Michael Ricketts among its alumni, all whom had stardom thrust upon them before they had really proved themselves worthy of it.

David Bentley was a classic of the genre which prompted one of England's most respected writers - with his usual cleverness - to declare that there needed to be a new DB era on the right-wing. Everybody gets things wrong but, even at his best, suggesting that Bentley should replace David Beckham was a needless acceleration of the hype machine.


Kane's progress at Tottenham is little short of miraculous, not just because of the number of goals he has scored, but that the stars aligned for a manager to realise the signings from a previous regime weren't good enough and Kane deserved a chance.

It shouldn't surprising that a player who represented England at underage should be capable of playing at a high-level in the Premier League but, usually, managers need to justify spending the club's money and so, regardless of how bad their big-money signings are playing, they will start ahead of a young player with potential. It saves the manager being asked awkward questions by the chairman.

In Kane's case, it took Mauricio Pochettino a few months to realise that Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adeybayor - to whom Tottenham are paying roughly £200,000-a-week combined - weren't good enough. Kane's true good fortune was that Pochettino didn't sign either of them.

Daniel Sturridge, for example, made his debut for Manchester City in February 2007 and, although he spent much of his time injured, watched City spent around £65million on Rolando Bianchi, Valeri Bojinov, Jo and Robinho all of whom jumped ahead of him.

In the summer that Sturridge left, City spent almost £70m on Adebayor, Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz before, of all places, Sturridge moved to Chelsea and the cycle began again.

Sturridge was financially well rewarded at Stamford Bridge but it was only when he moved to Liverpool as a 23-year-old that he really got the chance to be a first-choice striker and he has flourished, injuries apart, ever since.

The beauty of Kane is that, unlike so many of the other YSWDAECU, he seems to have a football intelligence to go with his physical attributes.

On Saturday, his first opportunity came when he tried to curl a shot from the left wing past David Ospina but it was how he found himself there in the first-place that was equally impressive.

Recognising that Hector Bellerin had vacated his right-back position to close down Christian Eriksen, Kane immediately went into the space knowing that, when the ball arrived, he would have time to create something.

At another stage of the first-half, he felt that Per Mertesaker was on the wrong side of him to wuin the ball from a clearance but, rather than attempting to win the flick, he simply locked the defender's arm and allowed the ball through for a team-mate to gain possession.

As was well-documented, his first goal was that of a classic striker who anticipated something happening rather than reacting to it but his second was just reward for the intelligence he had shown all afternoon.

Kane was twice given offside, once incorrectly, because of his desire to play off the last defender's shoulder but he also managed to put himself between the full-back and centre-back meaning that he was rarely properly marked.

A moment before his winning goal, Kane moved towards Nacho Monreal to receive a cross from Danny Rose because he felt that was his best chance of winning a header. The cross was short and headed away by Laurent Koscielny but Kane had recognised the opportunity and, immediately, spotted another.

From the throw-in, Arsenal didn't bother closing down Nabil Bentaleb and Kane moved just enough to get far enough in front of Monreal and far enough behind Koscielny before producing a superb header.

Every goal is preventable but this one was just reward for a player who had occupied Arsenal's entire defence all game, just as he did with Chelsea's last month and, almost certainly, as neither Soldado or Adebayor wouldn't have come close to doing.

The trick now, is to live up to the hype which already has Match of the Day captioning his highlights package as "England's best striker" while staying far enough away from the front pages to avoid the Wayne Rooney syndrome that the more the public knew about him, the less they seemed to like him.

And, if he needs some advice on how quickly everything can change, Berahino should be free to talk. The last YSWDAECU wasn't deemed good enough to start against Burnley yesterday and had an superb chance saved from seven yards in the dying minutes. Tony Pulis had an "I was right about him" expression which suggests he'll struggle to feature for West Brom, nevermind England. It's a reminder of just how fast things can change.

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