Harry Kane eager to shoulder burden of spearheading England Under-21 attack

Tottenham rising star dismisses talk of fatigue and says he is excited to be playing in a big tournament ‘with my mates’

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The Independent Football

It is a measure of just how famous Harry Kane has become in the past nine months that the travelling fans in the Czech Republic from Sweden, whom England play at the European  Under-21s Championship tomorrow, already have a song about him.

Yesterday, around the bars and hotel lobbies of the quiet university town of Olomouc, where the two teams will meet tomorrow evening in the Andruv Stadium, the Anglophile Swedish fans could occasionally be heard bursting into song: “Who the f*** is Harry? We’ve got John Guidetti”. A goalscorer for Sweden against Italy in Thursday’s win, Guidetti, formerly of Manchester City, is attracting cult status but he has  a long way to go to be as big as Harry.

There is only one Harry in world football now, and he is currently the star of England Under-21s as well as the man most likely to score the goals that will get Gareth Southgate’s team out of their group, following their defeat by Portugal in Uherske Hradiste on Thursday night.

That defeat was a low, but Kane has already seen enough in his short career to know that little is straightforward. His 21 Premier League goals last season have changed his life so significantly that yesterday he was once again obliged to say that he remains happy at Spurs, despite interest from Manchester United.

There are no regrets for Kane, a veteran of the  Under-20s World Cup and the Under-19s European Championship, at joining up with the Under-21s after a long, hard season. “I made it clear  I always wanted to be here.  It’s a great experience for me,” he said.

“I had a great campaign with the lads. I get on well with a lot of them, so it’s a chance for me to come away and play with my mates in a big tournament. We’re still upbeat and we’re still excited for the games ahead. We know what we can achieve.”

Harry Kane during the defeat to Portugal in England's opener

This summer, he is just starting to get a feel for how life will be from now – where goals in big games are the expectation rather than a pleasant bonus, starting with Sunday, when Southgate’s team have to win.

In Kane’s own words, he and the team are “not panicking” after Thursday’s defeat. “We all know, as a country, we want to be winning trophies, winning European Championships and World Cups, as any country would. That’s always been my aim – to win things, for club and country – and that hasn’t changed. Hopefully it starts here, with the Under-21s.

“I feel good, I feel fresh, there weren’t any issues. I was running around like my usual self. I’m probably as fit as I ever have been. I’m happy. I wanted to be here, to be part of this group, and I still believe we can go on and win it.”

Kane’s manner is often that of a man still struggling to get a handle on how different his life has become. He admitted that not all of it had “sunk in” and told a story from when he was with Spurs on their post-season tour this month and had to abandon a trip to a shopping mall in Australia because he was mobbed  by fans.

There was wide-eyed bemusement at how, eventually, he had to climb on the team bus to escape the crowd that had built around Ryan Mason, Tom Carroll and him when they ventured out in Sydney. “I don’t mind it,” Kane said. “Obviously it’s just the start for me. Maybe, in the years to come, I’ll get a bit grumpy, but it’s fine. I’ve always been happy to talk to fans. You don’t know how far they’ve travelled just to meet you. So if you don’t sign something, or don’t talk to them, it could be heart-breaking for them.

Kane scored 31 goals for Spurs last season

“I was a fan once and I’d always want someone I’ve admired to be a nice guy. That’s what I try and be. I don’t think that will ever change. I think I’ll always sign stuff for fans and take pictures because I know how much it means.”

His club manager, Mauricio Pochettino, has suggested that Kane’s participation in the Under-21s Championship might oblige him to miss the start of the Spurs season in order to give him time to rest. Kane, however, said that he did not envisage having to report back late.

“I don’t think I’ll miss the start of the season. I’ll probably have a couple of weeks off after this tournament, that’s normal, and I think there’s more than enough time before the start of the season. I don’t think, physically, it’s always a problem; I think, mentally, you need to get away from things as well.

“I’ll still keep myself fit and in shape – it’s not like I’m just going to let myself go. Obviously I’ll get myself a break after the tournament, but I’ll be more than ready for the start of the season.”

These are early days yet, but he still seems remarkably unaffected by it all. The boy from Chingford seems to enjoy spending the little downtime he has with his girlfriend or walking his dogs. The days when he was just another hopeful at Spurs, gathering the courage to speak to David Beckham while the former England captain briefly trained at the club, are still not that far away.

“The aim is to win trophies and to be one of the best players in the world,” he said. “As any footballer growing up, you want to be the best you can. The top players around the world are doing it week in, week out, scoring goals and putting in great performances. That’s what I aim to achieve. I want to win trophies – not just for club, for country too. That will always be the aim.”


Kane in Numbers

2 - The forward has only scored in two of his last 11 matches for club and country

6 - Shots attempted against Portugal U21 – just two of which were on target

12 - Kane has been capped 12 times for the Under-21 side, scoring eight goals