Kane: Injuries, transfer talk not affecting England performances

Harry Kane insists that neither a lack of fitness nor speculation over his future at Tottenham have been the reasons for his disappointing start to Euro 2020.

Kane was substituted in England’s opening win over Croatia and their underwhelming 0-0 draw with Scotland following below-par performances in both games.

The England captain’s displays have come as a surprise given he enjoyed an impressive season with Spurs, topping the Premier League charts for goals and assists, despite his club’s struggles.

And while he did sustain a couple of ankle injuries during the campaign, he returned from the most recent of those nearly two months ago, and was a regular for Spurs until the end of the season.

Kane won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup – a factor that has only added to expectations on him at Euro 2020 – and although he admits he became fatigued in Russia three years ago, he says that is not the problem this time around.

Harry Kane 0:40
Former England manager Steve McClaren says a lack of service is the main reason for Harry Kane’s struggles in front of goal

“Gareth [Southgate] is within his rights to make the changes he thinks are best for the team,” Kane told The Guardian when asked for his reaction to being replaced in both of England’s games so far.

“What we’ve learned over past tournaments is about trying to peak at the right time. The best time to be peaking is in the knockout stages and hopefully kick on from there.

“Maybe in Russia there were times, towards the quarter and semi-final, when I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be. In the end we didn’t get to where we wanted to go, maybe partly for that reason.

“It’s about managing the squad, making sure everyone is feeling as fit and sharp as possible. In my case, it was a tough couple of games and it’s about making sure I’m right for the rest of them.

“I didn’t have any issues. I didn’t feel physically I wasn’t up to it. I felt going into those games as good as I’ve felt all season, if I’m honest.”

Although Kane was one of the standout players in the Premier League during the 2020/21 season, Spurs endured a difficult campaign, finishing seventh in the table, without a trophy or a manager, having sacked Jose Mourinho in April.

The club was also rocked by the news that Kane had told them he wanted to leave this summer due to their failure to regularly compete for – and win – trophies.

PA - Harry Kane after being substituted against Scotland 1:37
Sky Sports News’ Rob Dorsett says there will be concerns about Harry Kane’s form after the opening two games of the tournament

Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea are all understood to be keen on signing the striker but, despite his future promising to be one of the main plotlines of this summer’s transfer window, Kane says it is not affecting his international performances.

“Absolutely not,” he insisted. “All my focus is on how I can help this team and how we can be successful in this tournament.

“I understand from a media point of view there is speculation but I am fully focused on the job here.”

England’s big problem is they need Harry Kane

Sky Sports’ Pete Gill

There was a suggestion or two prior to Euro 2020 that Harry Maguire rather than Harry Kane was England’s most important player, because the Manchester United captain was the one performer they couldn’t do without this summer.

PA - England at full-time against Scotland 2:39
Sky Sports News’ Rob Dorsett says England’s performance against Scotland did not live up to expectations

Two matches in and Maguire’s absence in the event of successive clean sheets is beginning to pale in potential consequence compared to England’s worrying Harry Kane problem.

Even the shocking stats of Kane’s contribution, or lack of, against Scotland only tells half the tale. Yes, there were only 19 touches. No, there really wasn’t a shot on target all night prior to his substitution. But what was even more alarming was the pedestrian and ponderous style of his display. ‘Leggy’ is the standard football vernacular. ‘Slow’ is the word in everyday-speak. In an England display that lacked intensity and zip, Kane was the embodiment.

There was a particularly concerning moment in the second half when Luke Shaw broke into the box. The England left-back only had a brief moment to assess the situation and look for support. What he would have seen was a wall of blue in front of him. Where was Kane? On his heels, statuesque, unreachable at the back post behind two Scotland defenders. Understandably, Shaw went for the shot, and he could hardly be faulted for it when the ball sailed harmlessly wide. As for Kane, the lack of movement and the lack of threat was most definitely un-Kane-like.

England (PA) 0:56
Former England forward Lianne Sanderson says fans must back Gareth Southgate’s players following their draw with Scotland and thinks his side will still top Group D

Is he carrying an injury? Or has he simply been weighed down by expectation?

The other question to be asked, inevitably, is whether Gareth Southgate would dare omit Kane from the starting line-up against the Czech Republic on Tuesday. Surely not. Southgate, after all, is instinctively loyal to his players – an outlook which was amply rewarded just a week ago when Raheem Sterling scored the only goal against Croatia.

But any question about Kane’s position in the England team misses the point, or at least the point of the problem. Because England’s problem isn’t merely or simply that they have a player out of form. The far bigger problem is that without an in-form Kane, it’s very difficult to see how England go much further. What we saw on Friday night was England without Kane, and it wasn’t pretty.

They can’t do without him.