Harry Kane is quiet captain of England’s loud World Cup squad

The captain has been a constant influence as the Three Lions aim for their first World Cup title since 1966

(Cookie Moon for The Washington Post)


LONDON – What if? What if England, groping in the floodlit desert since the glory of 1966, manage to stake that long-awaited second World Cup title out of an unpredictable pit in Qatar? No, wait: What if, after all the glam England captains from the eighties through the teens like Bryan Robson and Alan Shearer and David Beckham and Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney and more, England finally wins with the collector those ‘humdrum ol’ goals, Harry Kane?

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In addition, people have, at times, sat around in judgmental havens such as pubs, cafes and press rooms, and described Kane as boring.

“I’m afraid I don’t buy into the ‘boring’ argument at all,” said Peter Drury, NBC’s poetic new English voice on the Premier League, recently while cycling on the motorway between Manchester and Leicester. “I don’t call it boring. I call him constantly. It is a constant influence. You don’t have to be bright, you don’t have to be a pop star to be a footballer.”

It turns out you can even incorporate Drury’s weird points about Kane: He performs one of humanity’s most tantalizing acts, scoring goals, without tanning in the act of scoring goals. He’s 195 Premier League goals and counting (third all time), 51 England goals and counting (second only to Rooney), and zero looking at me.

“I think that’s what we need,” said Drury, “and that’s not to dismiss what’s happened before.”

Kane may be what fans often say they want (quiet diligence) but often aren’t (in favor of alleged glamor and scandal). But: “I think England fans have a huge respect for him to be honest,” said Drury, “because he’s a bit different to previous captains because, in a sense, he’s not an obvious captain,” but rather “a very good professional guy who does his business, goes home, and appears on the back page of the newspaper, not the front page of the newspaper, does not create any scandals and does his job very well, right.”

Well, in some ways, England has spent some four years drowning in its own glamour.

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Ever since England 4, Germany 2, in extra time in front of 96,924 at Wembley Stadium on July 30, 1966, England have played the role of the world’s foremost sports extra-inventor, fading in the quarter-finals or earlier. He has not played in any subsequent finals. He has played in just two semi-finals after that, Italy 1990 and Russia 2018, very rarely, when it finally happened again, the fans’ version of “God Save the Queen” at Samara airport seemed to be Russia at 3 in the morning carrying a little. more zing.

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That team, managed by admirers Gareth Southgate and Kane as captain, fell to Croatia in the semi-finals but left a sense of promise, intensified with the bolt into the Euro 2020 final against Italy. The last one came with home country advantage but still, hope has become more measured in a cohesive team, less marinated in starshine.

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“First day at the helm [in 2011], the former chairman was giving up the job,” said Ian Marshall, chairman of the Ridgeway Rovers youth organisation, for whom the Kane kid – and earlier, the Beckham kid – played. “There was a young kid, 17 years old, just signed by Tottenham Hotspur, professional terms, off the back of a scholarship, called Harry Kane. So it turned up. And to begin with, some of the parents complained that they had never heard of it. My point was, I don’t care if you’ve never heard of it…”

The idea was to have Kane present a trophy and maybe even “give [the kids] the belief that one day they could aim to do the same.”

“So that lifted my back up a little bit,” Marshall said.

Perhaps that moment illuminates the ultimate social value of Kane, the idea that made the Museum of London include this year’s Kane exhibition as a lesson for children, the idea that if a budding career hasn’t worked out by age anyway, it might still to be. Around then came the loans that deepened the anonymity: to Lleyton Orient (18 caps, 2011), to Millwall (22 caps, 2012), to Norwich City (three caps, 2012-13), to Leicester City (13 caps, 2013 ). “Yes, it was difficult, obviously,” Kane told another former England captain, Rio Ferdinand, in an interview in 2016, “’cause you feel, If I don’t play for Leicester or Norwich, how am I coming on Spurs team? But I came back after them for loan spells and I said, ‘This is the season I’m going to fight.’ “

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So it has sprouted and blossomed like crazy. She was blazing through the big New Year’s Day 2015, the day of her hat-trick in Tottenham’s stunning 5-3 home win over Chelsea, an arrival of such confidence that the Guardian’s Barney Ronay marveled at “a player who simply refuses. to find his level, to level, to look down and feel the first little twinge after five months of vertical ascent from half-part midweek man to England’s most impressive midfielder currently playing. ..” It has made sense from the boot Kane helped design, which Marshall shows a picture of, reading: “Loan, Loan, Loan, Loan, Lane (White Hart, home of Tottenham), Lion (England), Leader, Legend ,” with a legend perhaps poised to sprout further.

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He has grown despite the big nag still hovering: Kane, unlike other captains, has not played for any kind of champion, with Tottenham without a first division title since 1961, an FA Cup title since 1991, a League title the Champions of all time. The glamor is less there.

The fact that Kane’s journey has been, in a way, small is fascinating. It’s possible to walk without cramping from the stadium where the grown-up Kane works to the neighborhood where the kid Kane started learning to work, where passers-by would see him run extra runs. It’s about four plus miles over small bridges, across a highway, down odd wooded urban paths, up around the upper and south fringes of London. You might start with the people standing outside the stadium for Lady Gaga’s show, turn around now and then and see central London in the distance now and then, and wind up beyond the terraced houses of Chingford in a modest park behind a pub.

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In that park, back near the forest, there is a senseless goal with a father and two sons kicking at it. Marshall says Beckham (born 1975) and Kane (born 1993) kicked him around there among other places. All attended Chingford Foundation School, which, along a residential street, looks like a high school with a movie set. Other Chingford stars include Teddy Sheringham, mainstay of a 24-year pro career with 51 England caps. The twins of a famous gangster lay where most gangsters go (cemetery). Winston Churchill once represented some of the area as a member of parliament. Now, like London itself, it is an area with a significant mix of cultures and income levels, home to Arsenal’s shiny youth academy, and an area where a program like Ridgeway Rovers has to diligently and chronically consider the budget .

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From there there are two captains of almost comical dissimilarity. Where the great crosser Beckham captained England always carried his chicness, and although it became impossible to grocery shop in the 2000s without seeing him in the gossip sheets at the checkout, the great scorer Kane who captains England even nibbles on the edge of a kick. . Beckham married a pop star, Kane married his high school sweetheart. Beckham’s glamor came out of bounds, Kane’s glamor stops out of bounds. Maybe Kane is great and underrated, Beckham great and overrated. There was a Beckham walk around Chingford you could take in the 2000s, with tourists from as far away as Japan, while the idea of ​​a Kane tour might seem far-fetched (for now).

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“Obviously Harry Kane hasn’t built up that much celebrity,” said Drury. “He feels like a regular guy. And perhaps that is what attracts him to the English public… There is no such instinctive charisma. He’s just one of us. He does what is required of him. He does it in a very quiet, self-effacing way.”

“With Harry,” says Marshall, “the fame is different, because he’s not one of those guys who’s going to sell a brand of aftershave or a sharp suit, or whatever. Beckham is the, you know, what’s the word, catwalk guy, because he obviously has the ‘catwalk’, I suppose. And things like this. And Harry is a bit more down to earth. He gets a lot of money from his sponsors, but obviously the ones he gets paid by are probably the ones you’d expect him to be paid by, the sports companies and things like that where it makes sense. Where Beckham likes to put his name to anything.

“Maybe that’s the difference between the two. And that’s why the Americans know [Beckham more].”

A noisy team now has a quiet leader in a scattered World Cup without much preparation time. Now it’s England with Southgate and Kane whose sanity, says Drury, “has reduced the kind of overwhelming pressure that is on the England shirt.” Now he is a captain who has had to “wait his turn,” said Drury, having to “sit on the bench for Spurs for longer than he probably hoped, and when his moment came, he that increased.” Why, it’s a “lifetime high,” as Drury put it. Maybe it’s vanilla, and it’s certainly excellent.


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