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Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Why Kane doesn't get more credit is a complete mystery

The Thursday column

Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino instructs Harry Kane
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The English are supposed to be renowned for building them up to knock them down. But the spectacular early career of Harry Kane shows that to be completely untrue because he has been chronically underappreciated and it is a mystery why that is.

Most emerging English talents, especially strikers, are the subject of an absurd amount of hype the moment they show signs of being able to find the net consistently. But Kane, despite boasting a stunning record, has received nothing like the adulation the likes of Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen did when they were on the up.

The Tottenham hotshot has started only 94 Premier League matches, plus 11 from the bench, but has already scored 68 goals since his first appearance in the top division in August 2012.

Since Christmas he has been even more prolific, scoring 15 times in 13 matches, and yet still he is treated with respect rather than reverence.

After his breakthrough season in 2014-15, when he scored 32 goals for Spurs in all competitions it was widely predicted his scoring rate would slow down. I can't remember the precise reason why this was going to happen but it didn’t. In 2015-16 he again scored 32 goals.

This season he already has 24 and his game is still maturing. He is a phenomenal talent yet there is a baffling reluctance to celebrate his undisputed status as a truly top-class striker.

Here are some possible reasons:

1 He plays for Spurs
That shouldn’t matter a jot but somehow I suspect it does. Had he come through the ranks at Old Trafford I have no doubt the media would be all over him (exhibit A: Marcus Rashford).

2 He isn’t flash
If Kane wasn’t a footballer he’d probably be that nice, polite lad who knocks around with his mates and loves the car he saved up so hard for.

That appears to be reason enough for the papers to be ambivalent towards him. The fact he doesn’t speak like Peter Ustinov and generally comes across as just a mild-mannered lad adds to the fact he doesn’t get the same media scrutiny Rooney had to endure.

3 The England situation
Much to my utter bewilderment there remain some people who absurdly believe international football is the highest quality form of the game and that unless you spearhead your nation to World Cup victory you are nothing.

Thus when Kane, like every single teammate with the possible exception of Adam Lallana, failed to shine in last summer’s European Championship, there was a loud chorus of disapproval.

This was not helped by the fact he took corners, which was mystifyingly regarded as some grotesque demonstration that Kane was not up to much in the eyes of many of those oddballs who judge a player by how well he does for country rather than club.

When I see Kane smacking them into the net on a regular basis I see a superb example of how football can make a star out of anyone as long as they marry talent with hard work.

I see a guy who conducts himself well, does his bit when it comes to community duties and could, ten years from now, be right up there among the Premier League’s most prolific scorers.

The real mystery regarding Kane is just how his manager Mauricio Pochettino can rely so heavily on him.

While he is fit, there is no problem, but if he ever got a significant injury the consequences for Spurs don’t bare thinking about given how monumentally inferior the back-up strikers are at White Hart Lane.

Long may Kane reign, but it would be reckless of Pochettino not to invest in a decent reserve this summer.

I am sure the penny will drop in the end and Kane will get the recognition he deserves. But for now, for whatever reason, his brilliance has yet to be properly recognised by a disappointingly large number of football followers.


Swept up by festival fever

Ten thoughts about Cheltenham
1 I’m going to feel like a winner even without winning thanks to a wave of non-runner no bet refunds that are coming my way. The NRNB concession has become like a zero-interest savings plan and I look forward to getting a whole wad of money in my account as a result of choosing the right horse in the wrong race so frequently.

2 Melon will be the least fancied winning favourite in living memory. The brilliant novice has been universally dismissed, to such an extent he might not actually go off favourite for Tuesday’s opener, but I will keep the faith and so should you.

3 I do wish Charbel was going for the JLT because he’d probably win that at a decent price. Instead he’s going to finish second to Altior in the Racing Post Arkle, so get on each-way or without the Hendo hotpot.

4 Buveur D’Air each-way is a magnificent bet in the Champion Hurdle. One might beat him, three won’t.

5 The Mares’ Hurdle is a mess because we don’t who is going to run in it. I heard a rumour this week that Vroum Vroum Mag, the current favourite, might yet run in the Champion Hurdle. At least we will find out the participants on Sunday, when the declarations have to be made for the Mares' and the Champion. But what an ongoing joke it is that the fields for the rest of the Tuesday card will not be finalised until late the previous morning. Sort it out, BHA. All festival races (indeed all races full stop) should be subject to 48-hour declarations.

6 Neon Wolf will win the Neptune if he runs in it, which he’d better do because if he runs in the Supreme he might actually give Melon a race.

7 Uxizandre is the bet of the week in the Ryanair. He hacked up in the race two years ago (which, surreally, I watched in the company of the only poet I like, John Cooper Clarke) and his comeback run behind Un De Sceaux hinted a repeat victory is likelier than the market suggests.

8 Sometimes when Paul Kealy tells you a horse is going to win and why, he is so overwhelmingly persuasive you just have to do as he says. So I’m all over Master Blueyes for the Triumph.

9 The Cheltenham Gold Cup is an extreme test of stamina and that’s why Native River, who gets sneered at by ratings disciples, will win.

10 I can’t bloody wait.


Clamour for replays is imbecilic

Last week I wrote about everyone’s desperation to find a reason for everything that happens, a concocted narrative they can lean on to overcome their fear of failing to understand why life turns out as it does.

Two days later there was a stunningly daft example of this when a couple of refereeing errors were ludicrously attributed to the fact a group of the Premier League arbiters went to their colleague Anthony Taylor’s stag do in Spain.

The story gathered a frightening amount of momentum, to the extent everyone convinced themselves every little mistake was down to some mass hangover that still lingered.

And that mutated into an even more energised call for video replays to be used than we usually get when it is proven an official has made the slightest mistake.

Some supposed respected football writers joined in the clamour for replays and made themselves look imbecilic in the process because it was clear they had not thought it through properly.

Before we wreck the sport by allowing (or rather forcing) refs to use replays, we should at least trial the extra official behind each goalline.

As we saw at the Emirates on Tuesday, that extra pair of eyes is a massive help in improving what are already supremely high accuracy rates, and it is likely by using them people’s intolerance of errors will be significantly minimised.

He is a phenomenal talent yet there is a baffling reluctance to celebrate his undisputed status as a truly top-class striker
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