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7th April 2023

Harry Kane: Footballing legend or ‘Spursy’ bottle job?

Despite becoming Tottenham’s all time top scorer, Harry Kane is still yet to pick up a piece of silverware. Will this impact his legacy?
Harry Kane: Footballing legend or ‘Spursy’ bottle job?
Photo: Brad Tutterow @ Wikimedia Commons

The date is April 14 2014. Tottenham Hotspur in a face-off against Sunderland. It’s a Premier League clash between a team chasing qualification into Europe, and a side that habitually appears to be desperately fighting off relegation.

In a match where his team will eventually win 5-1, Tottenham manager, Tim Sherwood, hands a first Premier League start to a young English Centre-Forward, who has previously plied his trade during loan spells at lower league clubs such as Millwall and Leicester City. That young man goes on to score his first Premier League goal in that game, that young man’s name is Harry Kane.

Fast forward nine years, and Harry Kane is one of the most instantly recognisable names in world football. A man who is certainly viewed as one of the world’s greatest strikers and goalscorers. Kane has gone on to tally 201 goals in 307 Premier League appearances (all for Tottenham Hotspur), become Tottenham Hotspur’s all-time record goalscorer, and be capped 80 times for his nation; scoring 53 goals in international appearances – the most any player has ever scored in an England shirt.

On face value, it would appear that Kane will be an individual who will go down as one of the all-time Premier League greats, having achieved staggering amounts and broken a number of records, and will – upon his retirement – be considered a footballing legend. However, such an assumption serves to merely scratch the surface of the complicated legacy and position that Kane, as an individual and player, holds within the realm of the beautiful game. Because Kane, regardless of all the glitz, glory, and milestone achievements, has never won a single trophy.

Kane holding a trophy with England? Don’t worry you’re not imagining it. Here he is holding a gift given to him during the 2018 Russia World Cup. Photo: Кирилл Венедиктов @ Wikimedia Commons

Yes, a player that appears to be cementing himself as one of the all-time greats of English football, has not won so much as a Community Shield or Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. Despite Kane’s unbelievable consistency when it comes to scoring week in week out, there are repeated and well-grounded accusations levied at him surrounding his ability to seemingly disappear when his sides have a genuine chance of lifting silverware.

A lengthy catalogue could be produced that contained instances of Kane seemingly ‘bottling’ it in the big moments. His missed penalty against France in the Quarter Finals of the 2022 World Cup, a tournament where his England side had to that point been playing incredible football, and appeared to have a genuine chance of winning football’s ultimate prize.

His anonymous performance for England against Italy in the final of the 2020 European Championships. His inept and disastrous performances for Tottenham in the 2015 League Cup Final and 2019 Champions League Final; this evidence is compounded by the fact that during Tottenham’s run to the Champions League Final in 2019 – quite possibly the only time in recent years they have appeared to have a genuine chance of winning one of football’s ultimate prizes – Kane was in large part absent due to injury. 

The constant accusations that are levied at Kane around his lack of silverware are further compounded by the nature of the team where he has plied his trade for the past nine years. As no team in English football is perhaps more associated with consistent failure, underachievement and an inability to win silverware than Tottenham Hotspur. The term ‘Spursy’ in English football parlance has even come to mean the ‘bottling’ of big games, and an inability to win major honours. 

In spite of the reputation of the team for which he plays, Kane has remained undyingly loyal to his club. For example, Kane has turned down offers to move to clubs with far more cluttered trophy cabinets, such as Manchester City and Real Madrid.

Something that has attracted yet further criticism from many corners, with some suggesting that this behaviour shows a lack of ambition on Kane’s part and a lack of a desire to truly cement himself as an English footballing great. However, some counter such an idea by praising Kane for his respectable loyalty to the club that nurtured him, and made him the player he is today.

Ultimately, having weighed up and assessed both sides of the argument, I truly believe that whether Harry Kane is in fact a legend of English football, or a widely overrated and inconsistent ‘Spursy’ bottle job, who does not have the drive required to succeed at the top level, comes down to the individual, and how you believe footballers should act and function.

Whether the measure of individual success is simply individual statistics and performances, or whether the performance of one’s team and the accolades accumulated by one’s team, also play a role in the measurement of individual success. And whether staying at a club which is clearly stagnant and has a storied history of failure, is a sign of loyalty or stupidity in a footballer

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