This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane rarely gets a rest and so it proved over the international break.
The England captain played in both of the Three Lions’ games, a 7-0 thumping of Montenegro and a 4-0 win over Kosovo. He played 57 minutes in the first, having helped himself to a first-half hat-trick. Then, in the dead rubber, the game that really, seriously didn’t matter, he played the full 90 minutes.
England had already qualified for Euro 2020 by virtue of the Montenegro win. He scored, meaning he netted in every single qualifying game, but one has to wonder what Spurs will have thought of it all.
They are in a sticky situation and have not won in the league since September; they haven’t picked up three points on the road since January and are currently 14th in the Premier League table.
Kane and his side are already a staggering 11 points behind the top four.
What they could do with, this weekend, when they face West Ham United, is a fit and firing Kane, instead of one that has played 147 minutes when just 45 would have done.
It is not like Gareth Southgate didn’t have options. Against Montenegro, he could have brought on Tammy Abraham earlier, or Callum Wilson or even Callum Hudson-Odoi.
But instead, he waited until the second half, approaching the hour mark, to make a change with the game done and dusted.
And the Kosovo decision is all the more baffling. England fielded a strong XI but they didn’t really have to; this was a prime opportunity for Southgate to pick some relative newcomers, to see what Wilson and Abraham could have potentially done from the start.
But instead, they watched on, as Kane played the entirety of the encounter.
This speaks to a wider issue, too. The 26-year-old has suffered two serious ligament injuries in his career and part of that has to come down to the fact he plays all the time.
Think of him rushing back to play Liverpool in the Champions League final. Also, look at his record for England. He made his debut in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania in 2015.
Since then, he missed two internationals because of U21 commitments, and 10 through injury-related issues. When he has been fit and healthy, though, he has been benched on just three occasions – in an international friendly against Costa Rica, the final game of Group G at the 2018 World Cup against Belgium and in a friendly win over the USA.
Since his benching in the tournament, Kane has won 19 caps. He has not completed the 90 minutes on just six occasions. In the 6-0 win over Bulgaria, he played the entirety, ditto a 5-3 win over Kosovo and a 5-0 thumping of the Czech Republic.
It cannot be said that he was needed for the duration.
Southgate perhaps believes that, because Kane is captain, he should play, but the opposite is true. Once games are won, it pays to wrap your best players in cotton wool.
The former Middlesbrough boss doesn’t seem to think that way, though, and Spurs will subsequently receive Kane back to Hotspur Way after a few too many minutes.
It remains to be seen how sharp he will be against the Hammers this weekend.