Harry Kane: I'd be glad to play with Wayne Rooney

Kane scored his first goal of the season on Saturday night

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The Independent Online

Harry Kane is too young to remember the moment when Alan Smith came on for Gary Lineker against Sweden at Euro 1992, thus ending the hopes that the latter might have had of equalling Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record in his last England game. The Tottenham Hotspur striker was Wayne Rooney’s replacement on Saturday evening with the England captain on 49 goals, although from Kane’s point of view the one that he scored against San Marino was just as important.

Rooney’s time to score goal No 50 will undoubtedly come, perhaps even against Switzerland tomorrow at Wembley. For Kane, the goal he has been waiting for arrived within 20 minutes of him coming on to the pitch against San Marino and it was his first since the winner against Everton on the last day of last season, going back seven games, including three for the England Under-21s over their summer tournament.

The finish, a well executed dink over the poor old San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini, might have been followed by more as the home side’s defence tired and they struggled with the strong running of England, particularly the three substitutes. It was just Kane’s third senior cap for his country, an international career that started in such style with that debut goal against Lithuania in March, and was interrupted in June by the decision to leave him with the Under-21s.

“Obviously, a lot has been said about me not scoring yet this season, but the confidence is still there. I think you saw that in the finish,” Kane said after the game. “I am delighted to get on the scoresheet and, hopefully, I can get the ball rolling now and push on.”

 

Had the hiatus in his prolific goalscoring, that yielded 31 goals for club and country, been a weight on his shoulders? “A little bit,” Kane said. “Every striker wants to be scoring, so when you’re not, when people are talking, you want to prove them wrong. When I came off the bench I knew it was a good opportunity to get on the scoresheet. I am delighted with that, but the most important thing was that we won and now we are qualified.”

There was an Alan Shearer-style celebration as well, one arm extended, palm open, as discussed with the former England captain when Kane met him last week to film a television feature. Shearer, of course, was part of some famous England strike partnerships, with Teddy Sheringham or, later in his international career, Michael Owen, back in the days when 4-4-2 ruled. These days, centre-forwards hunt alone, and that presents an issue for Kane.

In the modern 4-2-3-1 formation, or the 4-3-3 derivative, there is only one place for the traditional centre-forward and for England that position is occupied by the captain and record goalscorer, Rooney. It means that Kane will either have to adapt or understudy for the time being, although there is a case for saying that against Switzerland tomorrow Roy Hodgson will have a chance to see if the two of them can play together.

Kane himself is open-minded to the prospect. He has played coming off the wing for Spurs and has also operated as a No 10. Either way, if he replicates his goalscoring record of last season over the next nine months it will be increasingly difficult for Hodgson to keep him on the bench. Tournament years can force change on a team and, given how Kane has transformed his own career in less than a year, it is not inconceivable to imagine him doing the same with England.

“I am happy to play wherever the manager wants me to play; that’s down to the manager,” Kane said. “If he thinks me and Wayne can play up top together, then I’m sure he will give that a go. From my point of view, I’ve just got to be ready for when I am called up and, like I did, hopefully take my chances when they come.

“I’ve played in a two [striker partnership] before. Last season I played as a No 10, Wayne has played as a No 10 before. It can definitely be done, but obviously that’s the manager’s call and what he wants to do. Me and Wayne both just have to stay focused on our jobs and try to do the best for the team.”

A year ago, Rooney’s future seemed to lie as a No 10 playing behind Daniel Sturridge, who went into the World Cup as Hodgson’s centre-forward of choice. But a year is a long time in international football and Sturridge has played just once for England since the World Cup, against Norway in September last year. The way Hodgson talks about the injured Liverpool striker, as with Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck, also missing through injury, suggests he is making no assumptions about their availability for Euro 2016 next summer.

“They [the injured players] are always in my thoughts,” Hodgson said, “because I think they’re very good players and they did extremely well – but I’ve got to make certain that there are a few [Jamie] Vardys and Kanes and [Theo] Walcotts about because we can’t keep going around talking about the ones who aren’t there.”

Sturridge is back in training with Liverpool and, all things being well with his fitness, he will be back for the last two qualifiers, against Estonia and Lithuania next month. There was a time when he would have  been guaranteed to go back into the starting XI immediately but that is no longer assured, not when Kane is capable of offering  so much.

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