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Harry Kane: The throwback striker leading modern England

Mark Pitman
SENIOR ANALYST
Feature
951   //    21 Jun 2018, 21:36 IST

Tunisia v England : Group G - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Harry Kane is the old-fashioned striker leading England into a new dawn of success

Harry Kane is the latest England captain dreaming of emulating the achievement of the great Bobby Moore by leading England to World Cup glory. Such success has not been witnessed since 1966, and while England enter a new modern-era under manager Gareth Southgate, Kane is very much a throwback to the past.

A physical and robust centre-forward, Kane has been entrusted by Southgate to be his leader on the field in Russia despite not yet turning 25. But Kane's career path has matured him as both a player and a person, and having struggled through a string of loan moves, he has now evolved into Tottenham Hotspur's leading man.

Captain Kane

Kane may lead a more conventional and tranquil life off the field than many of his peers of a similar age, and this approach is mirrored in his game. An old-fashioned and honest striker, Kane has a unique combination of strength and technical ability, matched with an eye for goal, that has made him one of the most talked about strikers in Europe.

Saving England's blushes with the late, late winner over Tunisia, Kane will very much look forward to taking on the ill-disciplined Panamanians on Sunday. Kane scored both goals in the 2-1 win last Monday, and leading the front-line in a team with creative central and wide options across the midfield will compliment his penalty-box game perfectly.

Tunisia v England: Group G - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Harry Kane celebrates his brace of goals against Tunisia

Forming a formidable relationship with Dele Alli at club level, there is a solid Spurs influence in this England squad, and Southgate would have understood the value of making sure his star man quickly settled into the international environment after another fine season in the English Premier League.

And that is part of the reason why Southgate is quickly proving himself to be a modern and forward-thinking manager. His appointment was considered a safe option for the Football Association following the brief and controversial tenure of Sam Allardyce.

But Southgate has been evolving and developing himself as a manager away from the spotlight, and holds his current role on merit.

Southgate the unlikely visionary

Changing the culture within the England team was an important element for Southgate as his plans for Russia began. Kane represents the young and exciting type of player he wanted to headline his team, and there are few players in the current squad that have experienced the traditional years of failure too often associated with the Three Lions.

Former manager Roy Hodgson guided England to an embarrassing exit to Iceland at UEFA EURO 2016, but there were many aspects to the team that were in desperate need of change.

Other modern football nations were showing England how teams should carry themselves at such tournaments, but the veteran Hodgson was exposed as a man constituted with the English footballing values of the past.

England - FIFA World Cup 2018 - Media Activity - 21st June
Gareth Southgate has defined the image of England since taking charge

With the time to review the holistic picture of international football over the last few years, Southgate recognised how much England were stuck in the past, and his charm offensive began with the media. At EURO 2016 the players were afraid to reveal who had won the team darts tournament. In Russia, the press has been invited to join in the competition.

Prior to the World Cup, Southgate and England confirmed their new approach to the media, as each and every member of the squad was made available to the press. A calculated squad selection has brought a youthful exuberance to the group, and there is a relaxed and positive vibe that has been reflected in the coverage that the team are receiving.

Media spotlight

It is a far cry from the traditional media mistrust of the past and represents a changing culture to the public perception of Southgate and his team. Kane is the ideal figurehead for such a group dynamic, and his status has so far been supported by his contribution to the team. Playing without fear, England cannot wait for Sunday to arrive.

This is a team that has been created in Southgate's vision. A modern coach with a modern outlook to the international game, he is helped by the fact that there is less expectancy on this England team than ever before.

No longer headlined by the likes of Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and other household names, this is primarily a collective group that will ultimately succeed, or fail, together.

England - FIFA World Cup 2018 - Media Activity - 21st June
There
is
a rare confidence and optimism within the current England group

The veterans of previous disappointment have now been replaced by players that are competing at a major tournament for the first time, and even traditionally seasoned positions such as goalkeeper have swapped seniority for youth. Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland and Nick Pope receiving the nod over Joe Hart in this particular department.

Pickford, John Stones, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Eric Dier, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, together with Alli and Kane himself, are all under the age of 25. Only Gary Cahill, Ashley Young and Jamie Vardy are over 30. This is not a team built on individual reputation, but a team built for future success.

Tunisia v England: Group G - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Gareth Southgate is building an England squad capable of future success

A new dawn

But while Southgate is moving England into a modern-era, it is the irony of Kane's style of play that injects some familiar English eccentricity. Kane would not have looked out of place in a bygone age of British football but has become the leading man as this untested generation head into the international unknown.

The World Cup brings with it a pressure that has restricted England in the past, and internal conflict with the press and media has heightened the tension within the group. Now together as one, this is an unrecognisable England from previous tournaments, but one that offers more hope for a brighter future than any before them.

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Mark Pitman
SENIOR ANALYST
Freelance football reporter, columnist and journalist with extensive experience writing for a wide range of top level digital platforms and printed publications. I have the privilege of interviewing some of the biggest names in the football world. Views are my own.
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