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Harry Kane is England’s ‘most important player’, says Gareth Southgate


Gareth Southgate has moved to reassure Harry Kane that he is England’s leading man after two flat performances from the captain in the opening week of Euro 2020.

Kane was virtually anonymous in the disappointing draw with Scotland on Friday and also failed to shine in the win against Croatia, finding himself substituted in both games even though they were in the balance. England’s attack has spluttered so far and there have even been calls in some quarters for Kane to be dropped, with questions hovering about his fitness.

Southgate, however, confirmed Kane will start against Czech Republic on Tuesday and reiterated that he intends to build the team around him, maintaining the forward will play himself back into form.

“He’s our most important player, there’s no doubt about that,” Southgate said. “You’ve only got to look at his goalscoring record with us to see his importance to the team. He is fundamental, not only with the goals he scores but the buildup play and everything else he brings.

“I know there will be a lot of questions being asked about him at the moment but he’s been through that a hundred times before. I’ve been in this role and answered these questions before and he’s come up with the goals, and I expect that to be the same moving forward.”

Asked whether Kane would keep his place against the Czechs, Southgate replied: “You can assume that, I don’t mind giving you that.”

Kane was replaced by Jude Bellingham late on against Croatia, while Marcus Rashford was given the final 16 minutes in his place during a frustrating second half on Friday night. Southgate claimed nothing should be read into those decisions beyond tactical factors and the need not to overwork his centre-forward, the latter being an explanation Kane himself offered on Saturday.

“In one of the games [Croatia] we were already ahead, we needed energy to press to keep the lead, we didn’t need an additional goal,” he said. “During the World Cup we ended up playing a lot of football and we felt the need to manage that load a little bit this time. We have got good options from the bench to bring people into the game.”

Others in the England setup have also rallied around Kane. His former Tottenham teammate Kieran Trippier expressed no concerns about his performances and suggested the onus lay on the rest of the side to provide him with openings.

“He’s working so hard for the team off the ball and I think people are not really noticing that,” Trippier said. “Harry’s a fantastic professional and for sure he’ll start scoring goals.

“He’s a big player for us and we just need to create chances for him to score. We need to get him on the end of chances and try to create as much for him as we can. Harry’s a goalscorer: he’s shown throughout the season, his assists and his goals, so hopefully he can start scoring goals for us, which I know he will.”

Further backing came from Raheem Sterling, who has scored England’s only goal in the tournament to date but has historically linked up well with Kane. “It’s two games and I’m sure when we need him most, he’s going to score,” Sterling said. “That’s not a question in my mind. We as a team need to produce more for him, more crosses in the box, but it’s two games gone by.

“Of course he’s a player who knows he can score in every single game and he will be the first person to be disappointed, but at the same time I know when it’s crunch time Harry will be there.”



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