Harry Kane: My Spurs mates are delighted for me; the Arsenal ones aren't so sure...
Harry Kane has noticed the Tottenham fans on Twitter who’ve clamoured for him to start his first league game of the season, but the 21-year-old knows only he can persuade Mauricio Pochettino to include him against Stoke on Sunday.
It’s understandable why Pochettino would choose to use his young striker as an impact substitute; Kane’s guile and exceptional work-rate off the bench has proved fruitful against tiring backlines not just this season, but last year too.
Then, his pair of assists in a 20-minute cameo against Benfica in Lisbon gave Spurs a chance in a previously lost tie. This campaign he’s already set up Eric Dier’s last-gasp winner at West Ham, and most recently earned Spurs all three points at Villa Park with a 90th-minute free-kick.
But now Pochettino has conceded that his in-form striker deserves his chance. With eight goals in six cup games so far this season – including a hat-trick against Asteras Tripolis – Kane has done all he can to impress.
“The manager plays the team he wants to play and you have to accept that, especially as a young player coming through,” he tells FourFourTwo. “You just have to make sure you're ready for the chance when it's given to you, like I did on Sunday.
“He has faith in me, and just tells me to go out there and play the way I can. Fortunately I've been able to do that this season.”
Decisive deflection or otherwise (“sometimes you have to make your own luck,” he shrugs), Kane’s winner against Aston Villa could be the goal that turns around the north London club’s fortunes in the league.
It was a moment the England Under-21 international certainly won’t forget in a hurry – even if the resulting pile-on wasn’t the most comfortable moment of his career.
At one stage I couldn't breathe, but I think I would have taken that for the goal"
“At one stage I couldn't breathe - I was trying to get everyone off me!” he chuckles. “But I think I would have taken that for the goal. It was a very special moment. To be able to score that in front of the Spurs fans and celebrate with them and my team-mates was amazing.
“I've been practicing free-kicks a lot in training, especially this season,” he adds. “To be fair, every season I practice them, although this time I've been trying out a new technique.
"Christian Eriksen is a great free-kick taker who has most of them for Spurs, and he's obviously scored some great ones. But when the opportunity comes I'll happily step up.”
Practice might not necessarily make perfect, but it certainly helps. And if the man Kane moulds his game on is anything to go by, Tottenham fans will hope the boyhood fan’s early years watching the team will help their current man become equally esteemed at White Hart Lane.
“I loved the way Teddy Sheringham played, especially his movement, and I really try to base my game on his,” Kane beams, on the striker who netted 98 times in 237 appearances across two spells in north London.
“He scored some great goals, and set up a lot too, and as I've grown up I've really tried to model myself on him. He was a real idol of mine growing up at the Lane.”
As I've grown up I've really tried to model myself on Teddy. He was a real idol of mine growing up at the Lane"
Despite Sunday’s win being only Tottenham’s second in eight Premier League games, they remain just three points adrift of fourth-placed Arsenal, and in contention for every cup they’re competing for. And it's only going to get better in the coming weeks, says Kane.
“We're still getting used to a new style but I think we're growing in confidence,” he affirms. “Sunday was a big win for us, and now we've got games coming up that are definitely winnable.
“We're looking to win a trophy. We're in the quarter-finals of the Capital One Cup, and hopefully we can get through to see where that takes us. The Europa League is something that we're aiming for, and a top-four spot in the Premier League is wide open at the minute. If we can put a good run together between now and Christmas we'll have a really good chance.”
"I was happy until the ball went in..."
Individually, it’s been an eventful season for a player who only properly broke into Tottenham’s first team last season after loan spells at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester.
Kane’s aforementioned hat-trick in Spurs’ 5-1 win over Greek side Asteras also saw him grab the gloves late after Hugo Lloris was sent off (and then concede a soft free-kick inside two minutes), and Erik Lamela score with a delightful rabona. So what about that pesky playmaker stealing the limelight on his big night?
“No, I was very happy for him to score a goal like that!” he laughs. “It was special for me to score a hat-trick at White Hart Lane in front of our fans, and I won't forget that.
“I'll probably leave going in goal to someone else next time, though. I was actually quite happy with myself until the ball went in the net, but I should have just given the gloves to someone else after that happened.
"There weren't any hands up, though, and someone had to do it. It was a fun night I enjoyed, anyway - although maybe it wouldn't have been if I'd let that goal in at 1-1...”
The Europa League has proved an important competition for Kane’s development up to this point, providing 68% of his football in a Spurs shirt so far and six of his nine goals for the club. Naturally, then, it’s a competition the 21-year-old is keen to prioritise this season.
“We're good enough to win it, so I don't see why not,” he says. “I made my Tottenham debut in the Europa League, and it's a great competition. That's especially the case this season with a Champions League place for the winner, so a lot of teams will be going hammer and tongs to get that.
“You're playing against some of the best teams in Europe, especially when those from the Champions League drop out. It's a great experience, especially for players coming through.
“But we are good enough to win all of the cup competitions we're in at the moment. We got a good win in the league on Sunday so hopefully we can build on that to get some momentum and see where it takes us.”
Outgunning the Gunners
The Walthamstow-born youngster has another incentive to help fire his side into the Champions League – finishing above Arsenal for the first time since 1995, and only the second in his lifetime.
“As a local lad you know how much it means to the fans,” Kane admits. “There was always a bit of stick at school obviously, and there still is – some of mates are Arsenal and some are Spurs.
"The latter are obviously very happy for me at the minute, and even the Arsenal ones are pleased too. They just wish I wasn't doing it for Tottenham!
My Spurs mates are really happy for me, and even the Arsenal ones are too. They just wish I wasn't doing it for Tottenham!"
“It's something we want to do of course, but we just want to finish as high as we can. We're only concentrating on ourselves.”
Kane isn’t even looking that far ahead yet, though. At this rate he’s on course for a call from Roy Hodgson within the year, but the grounded youngster admits he has plenty more to achieve for his club before the national team becomes a possibility.
“I just need to score goals and see where it takes me,” he says.
“If that's England, then great. But I'm concentrating on my club football at the minute, next year’s under-21s tournament with England, and to do the best I can with them.
“The Euros? I think we can do very well. None of the teams in the competition will want to draw us in the group, because I think we've got one of the best in the competition. We really have a good squad, everyone gets on, there's a lot of banter that flies around and the spirit is great. I think that showed in our campaign.”
But it’s back to domestic life this weekend as Tottenham hunt back-to-back league wins against Stoke. Home bird Kane has scored seven of his nine goals this season at White Hart Lane, but none so far in the league. How he'd love to open his account with another winner.
Harry Kane was speaking at the launch of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. To celebrate the early availability of the game, Call of Duty hosted a special live stream where the public were able to be part of a celebrity team. Call of Duty is out now on all major consoles.