Tag Archives: Harry Kane

England run riot in their 1,000th international to reach Euro 2020

Gareth Southgate’s team confirmed qualification for the 2020 Uefa European Championship in style with an emphatic 7-0 win over Montenegro.

There was already celebratory mood in the air at Wembley as the FA marked the Three Lions’ 1,000th match, and the party really got going as the hosts raced in a 5-0 lead by half-time against their game but limited Group A rivals.

Harry Kane was the star of that first 45 minutes, notching a quickfire hat-trick after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had opened the scoring 11 minutes in, and Marcus Rashford also got on the scoresheet on the half-hour.

England, perhaps understandably, let the tempo drop after the break, but an own goal from Aleksandar Sofranac and Tammy Abraham’s first senior strike for the hosts completed Montenegro’s misery on an historic night.

Perfect ball

England’s youngest-ever starting XI looked a little anxious early on as the visitors – with no hope of Euro 2020 qualification – pushed forward, but any nerves were soon settled by Oxlade-Chamberlain’s accomplished finish.

Kane now has 31 goals in 44 games, which leaves him 22 off the record held by Wayne Rooney, who he replaced for his first cap

With England knocking on the door, Ben Chilwell drove towards the box from the centre of the pitch and flighted a perfect ball over the top for the Liverpool midfielder who took a touch before nestling the ball into the bottom left corner.

It was the first time Oxlade-Chamberlain, a relative veteran at 26, had started for his country since March 2018, and his first goal in an England shirt for over two years.

Skipper Kane missed a golden opportunity to open his account just minutes later as his goal-bound header hit Sofranic, but the Tottenham striker got off the mark before 20 minutes were on the clock.

It came from a free kick on the edge of the box as Chilwell – playing only his 10th England match but looking every inch an established international – again came up with the assist. He planted the ball perfectly onto the captain’s head and Kane made no mistake this time.

Crushed

The number nine was crucial to Southgate’s plan, dropping deep and carrying the ball to make space for the midfielders to get involved, and it bore fruit again in the 24th minute.

It was that Chilwell-Kane combination which crushed any lingering hopes that Montenegro had of getting back into the game. This time from a corner, the Leicester City full-back presented his team-mate with another header that ended up in the net, bringing up 30 goals for the prolific Spurs star.

Chilwell, later named as man of the match, became the first England player since Glen Johnson in June 2009, to bag three assists for his country.

Montenegro were not quite done, however, and there was almost a shock to the system as Jordan Pickford was forced into making a point-blank save to deny defender Marko Simic in the 27th minute.

Normal service was soon resumed, however, this time through Rashford. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross was met by the head of Harry Maguire, but Milan Mijatovic’s save fell to the Manchester United forward, who twisted and turned his way through the defence before burying the ball into the net.

Montenegro were 5-0 down by the interval as Kane completed his hat-trick in the 37th minute. Trent Alexander-Arnold was the creator, playing in his in-form skipper to find the far left-hand corner of the goal.

A mix-up in England’s defence meant that Pickford again had to come to the rescue as Fatos Beqiraj found space between John Stones and Maguire, but the Everton keeper was quickly off his line to deny him in the 41st minute.

Smashed in

Gareth Southgate gave both Kane and Oxlade-Chamberlain a chance to rest, with James Maddison and Tammy Abraham coming on in the 57th minute, as the game – no longer really a contest – entered a less explosive phase.

Kane departed with 31 goals in 44 games which leaves him 22 off the record held by Wayne Rooney, who was among a group of former England stars greeted with warm applause on the pitch at half-time.

Still only 26, Kane looks set to be England’s main goal threat for several years to come, and surely has every chance of surpassing Rooney’s total.

No England player was required for the next goal as defender Sofranic found himself in the wrong place at the right time for the hosts. A Rashford cross came off Jadon Sancho before Mason Mount’s shot hit bar, only for the unfortunate Sofranic to divert the rebound over the line for 6-0.

With sections of the 77,277 crowd starting to drift away to beat the Wembley post-match rush, Abraham completed the scoring, combining with winger Sancho who played the ball across for the Chelsea striker to slide it home with six minutes remaining.

The only blemish on an otherwise perfect evening for England came when some fans booed Joe Gomez as he came on as a substitute, following his minor fracas with Raheem Sterling which led to the Manchester City striker being dropped for the 1,000th game.

Sterling later took to social media to defend Gomez and again accept the blame for their bust-up. Southgate will want to draw a firm line under the row and begin his planning for next summer’s tournament.

Photos by Brandon Prangell.

Spurs are blunted yet again at Old Trafford

“Tottenham at home. We all know what Tottenham is about, they are nice and tidy but we’ll f*cking do them,’’ said Roy Keane, back in the days when he, Scholes, Beckham and Co. would ensure that Spurs wouldn’t even see the ball on their annual Old Trafford trip, let alone have it long enough to do anything with.

This season was different as Spurs saw too much of the ball, if anything, and still didn’t know what do to when they had it.

Tottenham helped themselves to over 60% possession, which may come to a surprise to some but in reality this is a regular thing for Pochettino’s side. The North Londoners have out-possessed all but two of their opponents so far this season but often lack ruthlessness in the final third.

Passing was again the theme and for all the 429 passes they attempted, over double that of United, it was one simple, piercing ball by Ander Herrera that breached the Spurs backline and unleashed Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The way Danny Rose and Kyle Walker maraud forward as wide midfielders is indispensable to the way Spurs build their attacks.

But for all the undoubted positives this entails comes one fatal negative, as Spurs found out when Harry Kane gave the ball away in the middle of the park, leaving Rose helpless halfway up the pitch.

Inconsistency

Mkhitaryan was allowed a clear run through on goal and two touches later the ball was in the back of the net. One measured touch to take it into his stride, and another to lash home high into Hugo Lloris’ goal, and a reminder to Spurs that £26m can actually buy you a half-decent winger.

“Christian Eriksen’s bad spells seem to last longer now, whilst Spurs fans have waited three years to see the best of £26m man Erik Lamela, and are still waiting”

Spending wisely has been a problem at White Hart Lane for a number of years now. With the absurd amount of cash floating around in the Premier League, Spurs have used their budget about as sensibly as the Greek government did.

Even with the second best defence in the league and the rare luxury of having a 20-goal-a-year striker in Kane, Tottenham still look short compared to their competitors.

And that is down to the inconsistency, as the attacking midfielders who support Kane blow hot and cold far too often. None more than Heung Min Son, whose overall game was epitomised at Old Trafford.

He had two shots of note, one fierce left-footed drive from 25 yards that was well tipped over by De Gea, and the other cutting in from a promising wide left position, as well as having other options, blazed high and wide into the Stretford end, a stark contrast. He was then hauled off just shy of the hour mark.

Timid

If Son was in those box of chocolates Forrest Gump was referring to, he’d be the exclusively wrapped up one, with little to no chance of knowing what your going to get. But to single out the South Korean would be harsh.

Christian Eriksen’s bad spells seem to last longer now, whilst Spurs fans have waited three years to see the best of £26m man Erik Lamela, and are still waiting. Record summer signing Moussa Sissoko has failed to make the matchday squad at times this season, let alone warrant a place in the starting XI.

“The sun set over Manchester and as the light started to fade, so did Spurs’ chances of getting anything out of the game”

Tottenham’s flair players are too timid and patient, so it was no surprise to see them prancing around the edge of the United box, creating the impression that something promising was about to happen. It didn’t.

The one time Dele Alli managed to break through late on, like a man shot of confidence, he cut back, stalled, and the chance was inevitably squandered.

United manager Jose Mourinho was animated and agitated simultaneously, like a harried wedding photographer haplessly ordering for everyone to squeeze in the picture that bit more.

Pochettino appeared calmer on the touchline which could have only been his very best poker face, as he would have been far from impressed at what his team were producing in the final third.

Conviction

The Argentine spent a lot of time motionless scratching his chin, like we all used to do back in school to gain more time attempting to answer a teacher’s question.

He had the look of a man who knew he had three defenders and Georges-Kevin N’koudou to choose from to somehow change the game around.

“In many ways it was indicative of Spurs season; plenty of huff and puff but not enough to break the door down”

Plus Sissoko, who must have fancied it in training this week, as Pochettino brought him on to run at makeshift left-back Matteo Darmian who looked about as convincing as those Walls of Jericho.

Wladimir Klitschko was present in the crowd and the Italian looked like he’d just gone 12 rounds with him as he was beaten on a number of occasions, but Spurs lacked the conviction to land a knockout blow.

The sun set over Manchester and as the light started to fade, so did Spurs’ chances of getting anything out of the game.

Paul Pogba berated Marcos Rojo like a strict father for going to retrieve the ball for De Gea after winning a free kick deep inside his own half late on. Gone were the days where United would go for the kill but they knew they had done enough to blunt Spurs here.

In only three of their last 13 games have the North London side scored more than a single goal, so limiting them to scraps was not one of the world’s toughest of tasks.

In many ways it was indicative of Spurs season; plenty of huff and puff but not enough to break the door down. Rose claimed afterwards that they are ‘still in third gear compared to last season’.

Spurs have to start delivering over the Christmas period as they are already 10 points off the league leaders Chelsea.

Yeboah reflects on injury-blighted career

“I used to play for [insert name of club here] until I got injured” – a sentence uttered ruefully by countless young footballers down the years.

A dozen or so words that fail to do justice to all the broken dreams, unfulfilled potential and thwarted ambitions of so many talented players.

One of them is James Yeboah. The Londoner looked to be on the path to professional success until the muscles in his left leg stopped him in his tracks.

As a promising young defender, Yeboah was on the books at Tottenham Hotspur, playing in the same reserve team as the likes of Harry Kane and Andros Townsend.

“I joined West Ham’s youth set-up when I was 11 and played there for about six years before I got an offer to join Spurs,” the 20-year-old told me.

“I thought a move there would suit me, mainly because Spurs were arguably a better side and more importantly it was closer to home, so I found it a bit more convenient.

Impressed

“Everything was running smoothly, I got called up to play and train with the reserves a lot. I was the youngest in the reserve team, all the other boys were older, but I coped well and cemented myself a starting position. So I was playing every week and I learned a lot.

“The majority of the lads I played with went on to make it professionally, some in the Premier League, others in and around the other English football leagues.”

Yeboah started to make a name for himself and his coaches at Spurs were impressed by his progress, suggesting a call-up to the first team squad was not far away.

“My career and life turned upside down when I tore my rectus femoris muscle in the thigh of my left leg. The doctor said the tear was about 10cm long, from my hip to the bottom of my thigh.

“He recommended I went under the knife, but I wasn’t keen on surgery, I thought I’d sit on the sidelines for 10-11 months which was the required time until I’m ready to play again.”

Demoralising

However, the healing process didn’t go to plan. After sitting it out for nearly a year, Yeboah attempted to make a comeback by training with the youth team only to find his injury kept recurring.

“I had trials set up by my agent and places to go, but a lot of these windows of opportunity had gone”

“It kept causing me pain, which was demoralising and stressful,” he recalled. “I got to a point where I lost love for the game and realised it was time for a back-up plan.”

Although initially supportive, Spurs eventually lost patience over Yeboah’s situation and he was released by the White Hart Lane outfit.

At first, he refused to give up and attempted to find a new club – but his body wasn’t in tune with his ambitious mindset.

“I would have been going on 19 and eager to get a new club, but was continuously on the sidelines. I had trials set up by my agent and places to go, but a lot of these windows of opportunity had gone, which was really mentally tough.”

Fear of the unknown

Yeboah’s struggle to regain fitness took its toll and eventually left him at rock bottom. He opted to give up the sport he had loved playing since he was old enough to kick a ball.

Does he still play at all? “Hardly ever, if I’m honest. I try to keep fit as much as I can by going to the gym. My main objective is going university and getting a degree in building surveying or architecture, depending on the route I decide.

“I never thought of giving up while going through that tough patch, but I was always worried about what I would do if it didn’t work out. It’s fear of the unknown I guess, but now I have my back-up plan I do think about playing again just for fun and fitness.”

Although he sees himself as a strong person, he stressed that mental toughness has to be allied with other qualities to make it as a professional.

“You have to be hard working, extremely dedicated and ready to make sacrifices. Add to that a little luck, and taking opportunities when they present themselves is key.

Commitment

“I’d like to believe that if I’d recovered from my big injury that I’d be playing at the top level with the likes of my former team-mates Kane and Townsend. I wouldn’t say I would be on the same level as them because they are players who have done their loans and gained gamecraft to prepare themselves for the Prem.

“Youngsters lacking ambition could stem from so many things, but ultimately if you don’t have any ambition you’re not going far in life”

“If I was still playing I think I’d be on loan trying to get game time playing men’s football in the lower leagues to get experience.”

Yeboah also shared his thoughts on the debate over whether today’s young players ‘want it’ enough to overcome hurdles such as the ones he faced.

It depends on the individual. I’m very ambitious and always want to be the best at everything. Injury can of course hinder or completely stop someone from achieving their goal. I won’t complain about that, but who is to say I would have made it?

“Youngsters lacking ambition could stem from so many things, but ultimately if you don’t have any ambition you’re not going far in life.”

Strenuous

Yeboah is currently on an internship at an architecture firm but hasn’t completely ruled out a comeback to playing football.

“Currently I’ve just been working in architecture, but I am thinking of getting back into football and might try to play for a local team like Barnet, as I live quite close.

“With my CV, I don’t doubt that they would give me a trial. However, I can still tell my left leg is not as strong as my right, and it’s quite obvious when doing strenuous exercise.

“If I’m to start thinking abut playing again then definitely I will have to start conditioning training again and take it day by day. I’ll be looking at getting back into it around the start of May, so we’re going to have to see what happens.”

Ferdinand ‘hellbent’ on seeing young talent shine

With the current success of Tottenham Hotspur, the calls for more top clubs to give players from their youth systems a chance has never been louder.

But is it as simple as doing exactly that? Giving them ‘a chance’.

“A lot of managers don’t work with the under 21s so they don’t see the progress or what they’re getting”

According to ex-Spurs coach, Premier League legend and current QPR technical director Les Ferdinand, it should be no great surprise that so few English talents are given regular opportunities.

Ferdinand, who was part of the coaching set-up at Spurs which saw current golden boy Harry Kane become a regular, believes that for these youngsters to get a chance, managers must be afforded more time at their club.

“When a manager takes over, unless you’re an Arsene Wenger or a Sir Alex Ferguson you know your tenure is going to be somewhere between a year and two years, and that’s being generous.” Ferdinand told me.

“In that time you’re going to play your most experienced players. You’re not taking a chance on an under-21 when you don’t know what his capabilities are.”

Involved

So why then, when Ferdinand was afforded a first-team role in the coaching staff alongside manager Tim Sherwood after the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas, were players like Harry Kane and Nabil Bentaleb given an opportunity?

“It is a concept that makes a lot of sense yet it so rarely acted on. To give the youngsters a chance, the manager must be given a chance”

“The reason we were able to give these youngsters a chance was because we worked with them for five years at the academy, prior to Tim Sherwood. So with myself and Chris Ramsay becoming more involved with the first team, we knew what we were getting.

“A lot of first team managers at clubs don’t work with the under 21s so they don’t see the progress or what they’re getting. They don’t know them well enough.

“How managers view these young players now about sending them out on loan so they’ve played ‘men’s football’ and can then judge them from that.”

It is a concept that makes a lot of sense yet it so rarely acted on. To give the youngsters a chance, the manager must be given a chance.

Opportunity

Was Ferdinand sure then, having worked with the academy at Tottenham Hotspur, that when given a chance, these players would flourish?

“When I was at Spurs the young boys we had, we felt if we gave an opportunity to, they would do well.

“Old-school managers go with old-school players. Their though process is to go with the most experienced players because I know they’ve been there and done it.”

Fast-forward two years, and Ferdinand – a renowned striker for clubs including Spurs, QPR, Newcastle, Besiktas and Leicester (as well as for England) – is now technical director at QPR, temporarily putting his coaching career on hold.

Despite his change in job, ‘Sir Les’ as he is popularly known, is just as determined as ever to see academy players given a chance at his current club.

Constant changes

Of course, QPR have long been a club looking for stability, both on the pitch as well as off it.

“For a club of QPR’s size, we need to have a steady stream of players coming through the system and playing in our first team”

Constant changes in managers and first-team players have seen the West Londoners yo-yo from Premier League to Championship in recent seasons.

However, it is one statistic in particular that sticks out like a sore thumb for Ferdinand.

“For 16 years now, QPR have not had anyone come through the academy system and play for the first team on a consistent basis.

“This is one of my bugbears and one of the things I want to get right.

“For a club of QPR’s size, we need to have a steady stream of players coming through the system and playing in our first team. I am hell-bent on getting the academy structure right.”

Coaching

As I look at Ferdinand, who still has the physique of a 25-year-old Premier League striker by the way, it is obvious he means what he says and that he will do all he can make these changes in his new role.

But does he see himself as being stable in that role for the foreseeable future, or can he see himself go back into the coaching world?

“If I can implant any bit of knowledge from my time playing onto someone else that improves them as a footballer, then I get a lot of joy out of that”

“I like being a director of football, despite the amount of stick I’m taking at the moment!” he said.

“I did enjoy coaching, and I’m sure I will get back into it one day. I’m out there on the sidelines at training every day, have a little bit of input now and again and I do enjoy it.

“For me it’s all about making people better, and if I can implant any bit of knowledge from my time playing onto someone else that improves them as a footballer, then I get a lot of joy out of that.”

It is at this time that our interview was briefly interrupted by a fan wanting a picture with Ferdinand.

If he can help turn QPR into a more stable club and provide England with top-level footballers for the future, requests for selfies might become an even more regular occurrence.

Who knows, perhaps ‘Sir Les’ could even become a reality, rather than an endearing nickname.

Falco hoping Kane earns his spurs as a title winner

In 1984-85, Mark Falco scored 22 times for Tottenham Hotspur in the old Division One.

Falco was, in the words of the song fans sing at White Hart Lane, the last ‘One of Our Own’ to notch at least 20 league goals in one campaign.

Until, of course, last season – where if you fast forward 30 years – Harry Kane achieved the same feat.

It was a long time coming for a club steeped in homegrown heroes – the kind that bleed the blue and white of Spurs and live by their motto: ‘To Dare Is To Do’.

Spurs legend Falco says the fact that it took three decades for his mark to be equalled speaks volumes.

“I’m very proud of my record playing for Spurs. It took 30 years for Harry Kane to be the next homegrown player to score 20 league goals, so you see it’s not that easy.”

Team spirit

“Not that easy” is still putting it pretty modestly, but then Falco is one of the gentleman of the game.

Aside from the obvious comparisons between him and Kane, there are also many similarities to the team Falco featured in during the 1984-85 season and the one Kane is currently thriving in.

“I think some of us played nearly 70 matches, so we just ran out of steam”

“The current team is doing extremely well and looks like it could be a very successful season,” said the Bethnal Green-born striker.

“They seem to have the same spirit that we had as a team and are playing some very exciting football which we tried to play.”

That Spurs side, like the current one, were pushing for the league title. Unfortunately, arguably due to the sheer amount of games including European commitments, they fell away in the closing weeks of an arduous season.

Accolades

Were Falco’s personal achievements in front of goal rendered meaningless as his team fell short?

“Obviously it was a very big blow not to have won the league as we were so close, but then we didn’t have the big squads they have now.

“We were also in every competition and into the final phases of the cups. I think some of us played nearly 70 matches, so we just ran out of steam.

“It’s always nice to have personal accolades, but the team is more important. Besides, if the team is doing well then accolades normally follow.”

Now 55, Falco can certainly be proud of his career at his boyhood club.

Disappointment

Making his debut for Tottenham in 1979, he went on to score 98 goals in 236 games for the North Londoners, helping them win the 1984 Uefa Cup with one of their successful penalties in the shoot-out against Anderlecht in the final.

“It was a very great honour to be chosen, considering how many great players have played for the club and didn’t make the top 50”

“Goals mean different things,” he reflected. “I suppose my best goal was when we beat Arsenal 5-0, but my most important was certainly scoring that penalty to help win the Uefa Cup.”

It was, Falco admits, a real disappointment when Spurs told him he was surplus to requirements in 1986, but he went on to join Watford, followed by a successful spell at Rangers and then QPR before finishing his career at Millwall.

“It was very difficult as I had joined Spurs as a 13-year-old and made my way into the first team and was leading goal scorer at the time.

Fondness

“It was a bit of a surprise to be told that the club didn’t need me anymore,” he recalled.

“But that happens when a new manager comes in and has his ideas on how he wants his team to play. If you’re not in his plans, it’s best to move on.”

However, what is certain is that this decision hasn’t damaged his fondness for the club he loves.

In 2009, Falco was voted by supporters as one of the top 50 greatest Spurs players of all time.

“It was a very great honour to be chosen, considering how many great players have played for the club and didn’t make the top 50.”

Falco remains a familiar figure at White Hart Lane, working as a club ambassador on matchdays.

Will his successor Kane be the next name to oust a great from that list – and perhaps go one better and do it with a league winners medal in his back pocket?

Image courtesy of Tottenham Hotspur

Sorry, Spurs – I’m cursed

As any Spurs supporter will tell you, it’s a rollercoaster ride supporting our club.

Over the years I’ve had the privilege of watching superb comeback wins at the Emirates one week and the agony of dreary home defeats to Newcastle the next.

In my lifetime, Tottenham have always been seen as the team that just falls short, flattering to deceive and mixing some very good moments with some very bad ones.

However my first-hand experience supporting the team over the last two years has been filled with the latter. In fact, my last experience watching Tottenham win a game live was back in December 2013.

It was a very cold, wet and windy Wednesday night at Fulham. The game started with Spurs dominating possession but struggling to break down the opposition’s deep-lying defence, which was typical under Andre Villas Boas.

Surprise

Even more typical was when we went behind early on in the second half against the run of play. However, thanks to long-range efforts from Chiriches and former fan-favourite Lewis Holtby, I left Craven Cottage filled with joy – a feeling I haven’t felt since (well, when leaving a football stadium, anyway).

Since that day I have been to watch my side 11 times, spending over £600 in the process, and I am still yet to see them win.  In those 11 games I have witnessed nine defeats, ranging from  a 1-0 smash-and-grab scoreline against West Brom to a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Liverpool.

“As the game wore on my nerves began to grow and when we conceded a corner late on, I knew what was coming”

The two draws consisted of a dull 0-0 against Palace and a late recovery to 2-2 against West Ham to salvage a point – the only flicker of a highlight I can boast, too.

My most recent visit to White Hart Lane was against the surprise title challengers Leicester City, and it didn’t end well for me or Spurs.

Before that, my only other visit to White Hart Lane this term was our first game there, against Stoke City – yet another go on the N17 rollercoaster that unfortunately ended on a very disappointing drop as the away side came from two goals down to snatch a draw late on.

Optimism

However disappointing that result was, it did kick-start a very impressive unbeaten run by my side that I enjoyed so much that I stopped myself going to any more games, out of fear that I’d end the run myself – against the wishes of my Arsenal-supporting uncle, who offered to buy me a season ticket upon hearing about my curse.

Once the run came to end, I felt it was safe to return to the Lane and, hoping that wheels would finally come off of their unlikely title challenge, chose the Leicester City game. But after the 2-2 home draw against them in the FA Cup just three days earlier, I was aware of what a tough ask it would be.

“Palace fans will be happy to know that my next live match will be at Selhurst Park. To all Tottenham fans, I can only apologise in advance…”

Like my last taste of victory from the stands, it was a very cold, wet and windy Wednesday night at White Hart Lane, which gave me at least a slight sense of optimism heading into the match.

Which grew even more as the evening wore on, as for the first time in a long time, I was witnessing an impressive performance first-hand. After 70 minutes, we seemed to have done everything but score, testing Foxes keeper Kasper Schmeichel on numerous occasions – but even when Harry Kane got the ball past the great Dane, the bar stood in his way.

As the game wore on my nerves began to grow and when we conceded a corner late on, I knew what was coming and when the ball hit the back of the net (Robert Huth unmarked, header) I was left with the same feeling I’ve had so many times before.

The more games that rack up, the more I wonder how long it will be until I see my side win again when I’m there. Crystal Palace fans will be happy to know that my next live match will be at Selhurst Park. To all Tottenham fans, I can only apologise in advance…

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.