The captain has been a constant influence as the Three Lions aim for their first World Cup title since 1966
Maybe it’s a little funny?
It’s also that people have, on occasion, sat in ports of opinion such as pubs, cafes and newsrooms, and described Kane as boring.
“I’m afraid I don’t buy the ‘boring’ argument at all,” Peter Drury, NBC’s new English poetic voice on the Premier League, said recently as he drove down the motorway between Manchester and Leicester. “I don’t call it boring. I call it stable. He is a constant influence. You don’t have to be bubbly, you don’t have to be a pop star to be a footballer.
It turns out you can even embody a quirk that Drury identifies about Kane: he does one of the most radiant acts of mankind, scoring goals, not basking in the act of scoring goals. That’s 195 Premier League goals and counting (third all-time), 51 England goals and counting (second all-time behind Rooney), and zero eyes on me.
“I think that’s what we need,” Drury said, “and it’s not to decry what happened before.”
Kane might just be what fans often say they want (silent diligence) but often not (in favor of glamor and alleged scandal). But: ‘I think the fans in England actually have huge respect for him,’ Drury said, ‘because he’s a bit different to previous captains because in a way he’s kind of not not an obvious captain”, but just “a very good professional guy who does his business, goes home and appears on the back page of the newspaper, not on the front page of the newspaper, creates no scandal and does very, very well his work.”
Well, in some ways, England has spent quadrennials drowning in its own glamour.
Since England 4, Germany 2, in extra time before 96,924 at Wembley Stadium on July 30, 1966, England have played the role of the confused inventor of the world’s most important sport, sparkling in the quarter-finals or earlier. He did not play in any subsequent finals. He only played in two subsequent semi-finals, Italy 1990 and Russia 2018, rarely enough that, when it finally happened again, the fans’ version of “God Save the Queen” at Samara Airport in Russia at 3am seemed to wear down a bit. more zing.
This side, led by the admired Gareth Southgate and coached by Kane, faded away in Croatia in the semi-finals but left a sense of promise, bolstered by the bolt to the Euro 2020 final against Italy. The latter came with home country advantage, but the hopes became more measured in a cohesive team, less marinated in star shine.
“First day in charge [in 2011], the former president was stepping down,” said Ian Marshall, president of youth organization Ridgeway Rovers, for whom child Kane – and earlier, child Beckham – played. “There was a 17-year-old, recently signed by Tottenham Hotspur, on professional terms, on scholarship, by the name of Harry Kane. So he came. And at first, some of the parents complained that they had never heard of him. My take was, I don’t care if you’ve never heard of him…”
The idea was to have Kane present a trophy and maybe even “offer [the kids] the belief that one day they might aspire to do the same.
“So that kind of lifted my back a bit,” Marshall said.
Perhaps this moment highlights Kane’s ultimate societal value, the idea that prompted the Museum of London to include an exhibition of Kane this year as a lesson for children, the idea that if a fledgling career n didn’t work out according to age, she still might. Then come the loans which deepen the anonymity: at Lleyton Orient (18 selections, 2011), at Milwall (22 selections, 2012), at Norwich City (three selections, 2012-13), at Leicester City (13 selections, 2013 ). “Yeah, it was tough, obviously,” Kane told another former England captain, Rio Ferdinand, in an interview in 2016“Because you feel, if I don’t play for Leicester or Norwich, how am I going to make the Spurs squad? But I came back after those loan spells and said, ‘It’s the season I’m going to fight.”
So it budded and blossomed like crazy. He scored a big New Year’s Day 2015, the day of his hat-trick in Tottenham’s stunning 5-3 home win over Chelsea, a finish of such overwhelming confidence that Guardian’s Barney Ronay amazed to ‘a player who simply refuses to find his level, stabilize, look down and feel the first little pinch after five months of a man’s dizzying midweek rise to England centre-forward most impressive currently playing…” It gave meaning to a boot Kane helped design, a photo of which Marshall shows, reading: “Loan, Loan, Loan, Loan, Lane (White Hart, Tottenham’s home), Lion (England), Leader, Legend”, with the legend perhaps ready to germinate further.
He grew despite the big nag that still hovers: Kane, unlike other captains, hasn’t played for any type of champion, Tottenham not having a Premier League title since 1961, an FA Cup title since 1991 , a Champions League title ever. Less glamor there.
What’s lovely is that Kane’s journey has been, in a way, small. It is possible to walk without croaking from the stadium where the adult Kane works to the neighborhood where the child Kane began to learn to work, where passers-by would see him running additional errands. It’s about four plus miles over small bridges, over a freeway, over strange wooded urban paths, to the upper and right edges of London. You could start with people lined up outside the stadium for a Lady Gaga show, turn around once in a while and see central London in the distance now and then, and find yourself beyond the terraced houses from Chingford in a modest park behind a pub.
In this park, near the woods, there is a decrepit goal with a father and his two sons kicking it. Marshall says Beckham (b. 1975) and Kane (b. 1993) played there among others. Each attended Chingford Foundation School, which along a residential street resembles a film high school. Other Chingford stars include Teddy Sheringham, the mainstay with a 24-year professional career and 51 caps for England. Twins of famous gangsters lay where most gangsters go (cemetery). Winston Churchill once represented part of the region as an MP. Moreover, like London itself, it is an area with a considerable mix of cultures and income levels, an area with Arsenal’s brilliant youth academy and an area where a program like Ridgeway Rovers has to manage the budget diligently and chronically.
From there hail two captains of an almost humorous dissimilarity. Where the great crosser Beckham captain of England has always worn his chic, and when it became impossible to shop in the 2000s without seeing him in the gossip at the checkouts, the great goalscorer Kane captain of England does not even really nibble on the edge of chic. Beckham married a pop star, Kane married his sweetheart since high school. Beckham’s glamor is out of bounds, Kane’s glamor stops outside of the field. Kane could be awesome and underrated, Beckham might be awesome and overrated. There was a Beckham walking tour around Chingford that you could do in the 2000s, with tourists from as far away as Japan, while the idea of a Kane tour might seem far-fetched (to the instant).
“Harry Kane clearly hasn’t achieved the same degree of stardom,” Drury said. “He feels like an ordinary guy. And maybe that’s what attracts him to English audiences… There’s not that kind of instinctive charisma. He’s just one of us. He just does what is asked of him. He does it in a very calm and self-effacing manner.
“With Harry,” Marshall said, “the fame is different, because he’s not one of those guys who’s going to go out and sell a brand of aftershave or a pointy suit or whatever. Beckham is, you know, what’s the word, the catwalk guy, because he obviously has the catwalk look, I guess. And things like that. And Harry’s a little bit more down to earth. He gets paid a lot of money by his sponsors, but obviously the ones he’s paid by are probably the ones you’d expect him to be paid by, sports companies and things like that where it makes sense. Where Beckham likes to put his name on anything.
“Maybe that’s the difference between the two. And that’s why Americans know [Beckham more].”
Now a noisy team has a quiet leader in a scattered World Cup with little preparation time. Now it’s an England with Southgate and Kane whose stability, Drury said, “has taken away the crippling weight of the English shirt”. Now he’s a captain who’s had to ‘wait his turn’, Drury said, had to ‘sit on the Spurs bench longer than he probably expected, and when his time came, he maximized it”. Why, it’s a “maxim for life”, as Drury put it. It may be vanilla, and it is surely exemplary.