LONDON: If England manager Gareth Southgate could wrap one player in cotton wool before his squad board the plane for Qatar it would surely be captain and goal machine, Harry Kane.
Whatever combination of players Southgate selects elsewhere in his team, the one constant is that the 29-year-old Kane can be relied upon to put the ball in the back of the net.
Kane scored 80 seconds after coming on as a substitute against Lithuania on his England debut in 2015 and has 51 goals from 75 appearances for his country – a ratio that puts him firmly in the “world class” category.
He won the FIFA Golden Boot award in his first World Cup tournament in 2018, bagging six goals as England progressed to the semi-finals before losing to Croatia.
After a slow start, he also bagged four goals at the delayed Euro 2020 tournament as England went even closer, reaching a Wembley final against Italy and losing on penalties.
Kane’s ability to link play as well as score goals of all sorts has been well-documented at Tottenham Hotspur where he has been ripping up records and is on course to surpass Alan Shearer’s Premier League mark of 260 goals.
Shearer did not claim the collection of silverware his goals deserved but did manage a Premier League title with Blackburn Rovers, which is where he differs from Kane.
Kane has had some near misses with Tottenham, with a couple of close title runs under Mauricio Pochettino, a Champions League runner-up medal and two League Cup runners-up medals.
He appeared close to a move to Manchester City in 2021 – which would have almost guaranteed the Londoner some tangible reward for his goals return.
With Kane as the fulcrum of their attack, Antonio Conte’s Tottenham will be in the mix for honours this season, but perhaps his best chance of having something to give pride of place to in his trophy cabinet is with England.
But the clock is ticking on that too.
After this year’s World Cup in Qatar, Kane probably has one more tournament (Euro 2024) at which he will be in his prime.
With Southgate hinting that a poor World Cup might bring the curtain down on his impressive England reign, there is a real sense of urgency for himself and Kane.
Certainly, without Kane firing on all cylinders, England’s prospects recede greatly as only one other player in Southgate’s likely squad – Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling – has reached double figures in goals for England.
If Kane fills his boots in Qatar and gets at least the three goals he needs to replace Wayne Rooney as his country’s all-time top scorer – he just might just land the biggest prize of all.