Sunday 19 November 2017

Super Harry Kane revels in fans derby-day adulation

Tottenham 2 Arsenal 1

Harry Kane celebrates after scoring the winner against Arsenal
Harry Kane celebrates after scoring the winner against Arsenal
Harry Kane heads to score the winner against Arsenal
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger reacts as his team looses to Tottenham in the North London derby
Tottenham's Harry Kane equalises against Arsenal
Mesut Ozil celebrates scoring the opening goal against Tottenham

Michael Calvin

Citizen Kane, eponymous star of football's feel-good movie, is pure box-office. The script continues to write itself and the merchandising rights will be beyond the wildest dreams of the opportunists who hawk laudatory tee-shirts on the approaches to White Hart Lane.

Harry Kane's Hollywood season accelerated when his two goals gave Spurs a long awaited, raucously celebrated and richly deserved win over Arsenal. Inevitably pursued by TV cameras, he became detached from triumphant team-mates and conducted an individual lap of honour.

It was unsurprising that he should look up at the seething mass of humanity in the stands, and linger longest. "That," he announced, in a self-deprecating manner which will become increasingly familiar, "is a feeling I won't forget for the rest of my career".

Football is rife with petty jealousies and he sprinted towards the dressing room when he realised he was isolated, but no one was in the mood to deny him his joy. Tottenham fans may proclaim him as one of their own, but he embodies an Everyman's dream.

He has scored 22 goals in all competitions and Roy Hodgson, a timely witness, will be ridiculed if he does not include him in the England squad for next month's friendly in Italy. The comparisons are becoming more extravagant by the day.

There are flashes of the native intelligence which allowed Teddy Sheringham to negate a slight lack of pace and an increasing body of evidence that Kane possesses the all-round game to justify being mentioned in the same breath as Alan Shearer. Emmanuel Adebayor, who reverted to type as a conscientious objector and did not feature in the squad, is already yesterday's man. A superannuated liability, he has been utterly eclipsed by a young player whose life has been redefined in a matter of months.

Mauricio Pochettino emphasised yesterday's game needed to be played "with the heart and the brain". It also required a prodigious lung capacity, since Spurs pressed assiduously, earned the majority of possession and had the patience and resilience to overcome the concession of an early Mesut Ozil goal. Tottenham's collective ambitions are symbolised by the building site, hidden behind glossy hoardings, which feature images of happy fans wearing dated replica shirts paying homage to half-forgotten legends like Luka Modric. A new stadium will rise from the caramel-coloured mud, but what type of club will it enshrine?

Spurs see themselves as natural partners in the European elite, a profitable investment opportunity underpinned by a strategic commitment to hungry, home-grown players. Victory moved them into the top four in the Premier League before a midweek trip to Anfield and their challenge to Chelsea in the League Cup final on March 1 promises to be profound.

This was only the seventh time in 45 derbies that Arsene Wenger had tasted defeat and his tart summary - "we were not very good and the referee was at our level" - reflected his unhappiness.

He was generous in his praise of Kane, but was entitled to ask why he was left unmarked at the far post, 11 minutes into the second half, when Mousa Dembele flicked on a corner.

That equalised Ozil's 11th-minute volley, which completed a move which featured Danny Welbeck's decision-making, at speed, and Olivier Giroud's cross-cum-shot.

The 86th-minute winner, in which Kane was obliged to arch backwards to meet Nabil Bentaleb's deep cross, befitted the raw drama of the occasion. His scoring header was a fusion of power and accuracy, athleticism and technique. Tottenham's tipping point came when Pochettino bought into a youth system, where, to use a buzz phrase favoured by academy director John McDermott, coaches are challenged to be "igniters, inspirational people".

Ryan Mason was outstanding in midfield alongside another youth product, Bentaleb, but it is Kane, ironically rejected by Arsenal as a boy, who justifies a system which demands young outfield players have the natural attributes of a midfield player, whatever position they occupy.

Though Kane's goals are a traditional gauge of his impact, his development has broader lessons. He readily acknowledges the importance of a loan spell at Millwall, where his diligence and natural humility earned the respect of some of football's most demanding fans.

Above all, he is the product of a philosophy which teaches emerging players that speed across the ground is not their single most important quality; spatial awareness and quickness of thought are vital.

"If a player deserves to play I don't see names or years," Pochettino insisted. "Harry gave a great performance, but we need to push him to develop his potential, which is massive."

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