The sensational rise of academy product Harry Kane has been the story of the season at White Hart Lane, yet it’s origins lie in the failings of Tottenham’s transfer policy over the last two summers.
Indeed, if the Lilywhites’ £110million spending spree in summer 2013, a direct consequence of Gareth Bale’s £86million move to Real Madrid, wasn’t predominantly absorbed by a band of mercurial mercenaries, signings made with future profits in mind and £26million flop Roberto Soldado, if Daniel Levy had stronger supported incoming manager Mauricio Pochettino in the transfer market during the recent offseason, in terms of both finance and influence, the vogue chorus of ‘he’s one of our own’ wouldn’t be ringing around the Lane so ceremoniously this season.
Instead of scoring eight goals in 17 Premier League appearances, running riot against Chelsea and energetically nipping away at the fringes of the England squad, it’s likely Kane would be on loan at another Premier League club right now, with Crystal Palace, amongst others, known to have courted his services during the summer.
That’s not to suggest I haven’t found Kane’s miraculous transformation from a peripheral bit-part into Tottenham’s leading goalscorer as enjoyably intoxicating as the rest of the Tottenham faithful. Not that I’m somehow bitter or begrudging of a young Englishman dispelling myths about the lack of home-grown quality in this country, especially in front of goal.
But let’s not sugar-coat a pill just because it’s difficult to swallow; Kane’s sudden rise to intrinsic status came only through a lack of viable alternatives available to Pochettino, due to the misshapen, poorly constructed squad he inherited.
In terms of goals, this is patently obvious, for Soldado and Adebayor’s combined total of three from 1358 minutes in the Premier League is almost incomparable to Kane’s haul, from 285 minutes less. The absence of dependable firepower up top has plagued Tottenham since the Togo international’s 17-goal loan campaign, now three seasons ago.
Yet, it’s Kane’s tenacity and devotion, his relentless industriousness seemingly charged by the sheer will of the Spurs support, often correlative to the volume at White Hart Lane, that’s forged a near-permanent role for the young striker in Pochettino’s plans.
The Argentine’s high-pressing philosophy depends on such determined spirit but unfortunately, not all at White Hart Lane are prepared to provide it, in my opinion, for one predominant reason; the manner of Tottenham’s recruitment.
Paulinho, Soldado, Erik Lamela et al may be exciting names for the fan base, but they arrived in north London with little, if anything, indebted to the club – excluding the regularity of their pay cheques. Many sign with the notion that Spurs are just a springboard in their lengthy career paths, whilst others appear to be a part of Levy’s never-ending transfer game, knowing they’ll stick around for only a few seasons before being sold at a mark up, resulting in a net spend of just £12million over the past three campaigns.
I don’t discredit the professionalism of any, but that’s a key word to bear in mind. Especially last season under Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood, the majority of Tottenham’s individual performances felt little more than simply ‘professional’. They lacked heart, passion and identity.
Meanwhile, those like Chingford-born Harry Kane, a product of the Spurs youth system and equally importantly, a connection to the local north London community, have been slowly forced out of the club to make room. Since the Bale money arrived in summer 2013, Jermain Defoe, Tom Huddlestone, Steven Caulker, Michael Dawson and Jake Livermore, good English players whose devotion Hotspur was never in doubt, have all moved on, taking the club’s soul with them.
I found the words upon Huddlestone’s departure the most revealing. “The first few years I was there, the philosophy and policy were to buy young British players, such as myself, Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale, Michael Dawson, Jermaine Jenas, and players like that. Now it has gone the opposite way – buying more established international players. I’m not sure if it is good for the club,” the Hull City midfielder told Mirror Football in 2013.
It’s taken Pochettino’s change in perspective, the introduction of Kane alongside academy products Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason, to reintroduce that sense of unique identity and community spirit at White Hart Lane, subsequently improving results – something which Daniel Levy must now learn from.
We’re now amidst the January transfer window and many, including myself, expect Tottenham to do some business on the inward front. Whether the club make signings encapsulating the Tottenham spirit, the core characteristics of the English game, however, or return to the profiteering foreign market that’s only served them poorly since 2013, remains to be seen.