Why Tottenham must keep him for the right reasons
With less than five days to go till the start of the new Barclays Premier League season, most supporters up and down the country are fervent with optimism. The season’s opener works as a tonic to summer blues, a barometer for the long months ahead and also the first glimpse of your summer signings in action. At Tottenham Hotspur, however, there aren’t many summer signings to be glimpsed at. In fact, forget summer signings- there are barely any strikers there at all.
There is a palpable sense of frustration in and around White Hart Lane about the shortage of depth up front. Yet another summer has brought fans another episode of transfer brinkmanship and you get the feeling that a few are getting slightly fed up with the same old storyline. But alarmingly, the situation regarding the exit of arguably their most talented player isn’t even Tottenham’s biggest issue at present.
Andre Villas-Boas’ brave new era starts at St. James Park this Saturday but the Portuguese has only two front men to pick from. Jermain Defoe is Spurs’ only recognized striker at the football club, but the uncomfortable truth is that Villas-Boas has inherited a player that does not fit into the side’s new way of playing. The second option, however, offers a far more contentious prospect.
The 19-year-old Harry Kane is, as it stands, is jostling with Defoe for a starting place against Newcastle United. The youngster has never played for Spurs in the Premier League before and 18 months ago, he’d yet to have played a professional game of football. Come Saturday, he could be leading the line for a club hunting for a top four finish.
Anyone who is doubting the reality of Kane starting against Newcastle need only to consider the facts and the context of the situation. Villas-Boas’s new system, be it the 4-2-3-1 he’s been going with in pre-season or the slightly altered 4-3-3, only has room for one out-and-out front man. That front man needs to be mobile, imposing and adept at holding up the ball. Jermain Defoe’s skillset does not fit that set-up and his future at the club still remains in the balance. There is a belief that if Spurs can manage to bring in two strikers, Defoe will even be allowed to leave. That currently feels optimistic.
Of course, Daniel Levy has pulled off his fair share of transfer surprises over the years and we could all be eating humble pie within the next 48 hours. Indeed, Defoe or even Rafael van der Vaart could end up starting up top for Tottenham this weekend. But there is a feeling that the momentum is with Harry Kane. There’s nothing strange about seeing younger players play a prominent role in pre-season- even Kane himself was scoring a few goals this time last year. Although Villas-Boas has shown the faith and Kane played all 90 minutes in the marquee friendly against Liverpool last month. Whether that’s because there was no one else to play, is academic. These are the cards that Villas-Boas has been dealt.
Several recent reports have suggested that Villas-Boas is ready to put his faith in Kane for the new season. A new striker will inevitably come, but Kane certainly has a chance to make a real impact. The backing of the manager hasn’t got unnoticed either, with Kane seemingly delighted with how things have gone.
Speakign to the club website after their 0-0 draw with Liverpool in pre-season, Kane said:
“It (playing 90 minutes) shows a great trust in me, it’s great to have that.
“If he believes in me, then I can only believe in myself.
“I enjoyed every minute of it. That’s what I want to do, to play for Tottenham Hotspur.”
Kane is certainly saying the right things and the opportunity for supporters to see a born and bred youth product break into the first team would warm the hearts of all in N17. But he must be ready and promoted into the team for the right reasons; not to cover for the clubs failings in the transfer market.
The young striker is a great talent; there can’t be any doubt. To go into a league as formidable and unforgiving as the Championship aged 18 and have the impact that Kane did, is nothing short of superb. Kane scored 10 in 28 during his loan spell in a struggling Millwall team last year, as he went on to win the Lions’ young player of the season award. Playing first team football is crucial to Kane’s development and where as so many his age seem to struggle in various youth and reserve teams, Kane took his chance and ran with it.
That’s why the notion of Kane staying next season is so dangerous. There are so many variables surrounding his development but he can’t be kept at White Hart Lane, only to fester on the bench after a couple of weeks. He could go on to thrive under it, but does Kane really need the pressure that playing in a new system under a new manager in a side that will be baying for Champions League qualification, will bring? His every move will be scrutinized and he will be expected to produce the goods. That feels as if it’s asking an awful lot.
The aspect of leading the line for Spurs is also a difficult prospect. Of course, playing with the sort of quality that’ll surround Kane at Tottenham, he is going to be aptly supplied with chances, but as a lone frontman, he’ll have to create them aswell. At Millwall he found much success playing in a partnership up front as opposed to being on his own. The burden was either shared with the fleeting Andy Keogh or the human battering ram of Darius Henderson. The dynamic of having a striker partner certainly helped Kane last season but it’s not something he’ll be afforded next term.
The sort of opportunity that might fall the way to Harry Kane, is the one that can define a career. It sounds like unnecessary hyperbole, but if he starts against Newcastle and scores a brace, then his fate could change forever. But the likelihood could be very different.
Kane doesn’t need the pressure, Spurs need a finished product up front and the youngster’s game still needs developing. The Steven Caulker model feels a far better fit- after successful spells at League One and Championship level, Caulker was gradually eased into the Premier League with a successful loan spell at Swansea. Kane’s stock is high, so why not do the same thing? There’s no reason why Kane can’t be as hot property as what Caulker is at the moment.
If Kane does stay this summer, it has to be for the right reasons. Otherwise, Tottenham’s dangerous approach to the transfer market could cost Kane a year out of his football development. The further consequences of such an approach could be far more hard hitting.
Do you want to see Harry Kane trying to break into the Spurs team next season or would you rather he did another year on loan? Get involved with the Spurs talk on Twitter, follow @samuel_antrobus and tell me how you see it.