Harry Kane spelled out before England‘s sleepy-eyed, wake-up call against Scotland that he regards reaching the Euro 2020 semi-finals as a bare minimum for his side. They will not do so unless he springs to life.
The substitution of the England captain for the second game running against the admirable Scots underscored his underperformance at this tournament so far.
Much was made ahead of it on England’s embarrassment of creative riches but one goal in two matches is a source of concern. Kane is their primary goal source but has delivered a resounding raspberry so far.
In 155 minutes on the field at Wembley he has managed just three goal attempts, two of which went wide and one of which was blocked. There has been nothing on target which, for Kane, over a span of two matches is almost unheard of.
It isn’t as if he is making up for his lack of effectiveness in front of goal in other areas. A largely anonymous Friday evening against Scotland saw him touch the ball just 19 times.
Something is missing. There are three possible explanations.
The first is that he is simply knackered after the congested domestic season but then that could apply to most players at the Euros.
The second is that he is carrying an injury of some sort. His history of ankle issues at Spurs stretches back five years. There have been two more this year including one as recently as April, sustained against Everton.
The third is the one which looks most compelling, that the uncertainty over his future is weighing him down. Kane is the consummate professional but he is not a robot even if he sometimes sounds like one. Next season’s Premier League fixtures are already out and he does not know for certain where he will be playing his club football. Tottenham face Manchester City on the opening weekend. He could be running out for either team.
Gareth Southgate has plenty on his plate after the Scotland game but none more important than rebooting his World Cup Golden Boot winner and this is a subject on which he could help having put in a transfer request of his own at Aston Villa just before the 2000 Euros. He ended up staying but he too had it hanging over him during the tournament.
While Southgate had, by that stage of his career, already had experience of a transfer having been sold by Crystal Palace five years previously, this is virgin territory for Kane. He had his loan spells early on in his career but essentially he has been a one-club man and his emotional investment in Spurs is deep. The wrench will be a big one if he leaves and not just for football reasons with a wife and three children to relocate.
Two quiet – make that silent – games in a row for Kane and there has been knee-jerk talk of axing him from the starting line-up. No-one is undroppable as Kane himself said after the Croatia win but that way insanity lies.
The England system has been built around Kane. Dismantling it now – in a tournament in which the side remains unbeaten and still on course to qualify for the knockout stages – would be crazy.
His only like-for-like replacement, Dominic Calvert-Lewin has scored four goals for England; Kane has scored 34. He is England’s totem.
Unless he does have an injury, he has to start Tuesday’s game against the Czech Republic and try to play his way back into form.
Kane has been binge-watching Game of Thrones episodes in his down time at this tournament. If he has reached season six he will have come across Jon Snow being brought back from the dead.
Kane’s situation is not quite so extreme but his resurrection against the Czechs is critical for the health of England’s tournament.
This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Sport Feed