Harry Kane is a one‑season wonder. The only thing is it has been every season since 2014‑15. There are times, such as now, as the England captain finds himself under an unforgiving spotlight, when nobody seems to remember the lessons of history, how it is foolhardy in the extreme to write him off. They do not even remember the lessons of the previous month, when the Tottenham striker was collecting his third Premier League Golden Boot award.
To Kane, it does not matter. The noise means nothing. Just as missing a chance does not affect him or enduring a fallow period, as he is at Euro 2020 – it is no goals in England’s three ties so far and only one shot on target. Because one of Kane’s best qualities is that, unlike many centre-forwards, he is not a confidence player.
Kane simply trusts in his technique, in his processes, on doing the things that he has done on many hundreds of occasions. It has always worked for him and it will continue to work for him.
And so, before Tuesday’s last-16 tie against Germany at Wembley – a potentially career-defining showpiece – we had the sight of Kane under a picnic table umbrella, sheltering from the drizzle at St George’s Park, but nothing else. The self-assurance was easy, natural and reassuring.
“It’s definitely not the first time people have doubted me in my career, that’s for sure,” Kane says. “That’s part and parcel of it. I’ve said all along as a striker that you go through some great spells where you are scoring every game and everything you touch turns into goals and then there are some where things don’t fall your way … and that’s probably the way it’s gone in this tournament so far.
“People are quick to change their minds. It wasn’t too long ago when I won the Golden Boot and I was the best thing in the world, people were raving about me. You can’t get too high or too low, you just have to have that neutral mode. Self-belief is a huge thing and I’ve always believed in myself. I could go 10, 15 games without scoring but, give me a chance, and I’d back myself to score it.”
Kane was poor in England’s opening group games – the 1-0 win over Croatia and the 0-0 draw with Scotland – and, although he was better in the final one – another 1-0 win against the Czech Republic – he was still a way short of his best. It feels as though the top scorer at the 2018 World Cup in Russia needs a goal to ignite his tournament but he says that it is about hitting form when it really matters.
“It is about trying to peak at the right time and the right time in tournament football is the knockout stages,” Kane says. “The first two games weren’t my best games, I definitely could have improved on them, but I felt a lot better in the third game. I had a lot more involvement, not just with the ball but without the ball … holding it up, too.
“I’m in a good place. Going into Tuesday, physically, I’m in the best shape of the tournament so far, and that’s what I wanted. In Russia, I started on fire, scored loads of goals and then maybe didn’t have my best performances in the quarters and semis. The most important thing is that I’m calm, the team are calm and we’re in a controlled place going into the big match against Germany.”
Off the field, Kane is consumed by one of the epics of our time, a tale of drama and deceit, power and vice, criss-crossing a fantastical realm. No, not the search for a new manager at Spurs, rather Game of Thrones, in which he is up to series three.
As Kane searches for sharpness, the issues at his club and the fact he wants to leave have been cited as a distraction, although it does rather ignore the reality that he has dreamed of leading England at a major tournament on home soil since he was a boy; nothing means more to him than this. Kane told Spurs before the end of the season that he wanted a transfer, with Manchester City most prominent among his suitors.
“When I come away with England, I’m just fully focused on England,” Kane says. “My brother is my agent but the only time I’ve spoken to him over the last few weeks has been: ‘Good luck, let’s get a win and let’s take England all the way.’ I’ve got enough on my plate [with England]. When you’re not scoring as a striker, people look for every little angle and that’s probably the case at this tournament.”
Has Kane even kept up to speed with the managerial situation at Spurs? “No,” he says. “I don’t really read anything, no media. The only thing I normally go on is Instagram and I don’t really see anything on there. It’s more pictures, things like that.
“I keep myself to myself. I watch my series. I’m with the boys playing pool or table tennis. I just try to stay away from it all. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught away with other stuff but the experience I’ve had in previous tournaments is to focus on this, do what you can do in the moment and leave no regrets.”