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World Cup 2018: Why England captaincy will define Harry Kane's future 

994   //    02 Jun 2018, 00:27 IST

Kane's rise has been unbelievable and laudable
Kane's rise has been unbelievable and laudable

The monumental progress over the years

About five years ago from today, there was little difference between a student vying for the attention of his favorite teacher and a teenage Harry Kane struggling to make a name for himself at the upper echelons of a top club like Tottenham Hotspur.

But it is amazing how dealing with immense pressure and putting in colossal hard work does to a player. From being called a newbie and a wannabe to some one-season wonder, Harry Kane will lead out England in the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Russia in about two weeks from now.

While it can be said that no one in the current Three Lions side deserved the armband more than Kane did, but the point at which the responsibility has come makes it more crucial a point in his career than most would think. Kane has shown that he is a wonderful performer under pressure and has proven critics wrong throughout his rise to prominence, but this responsibility is of a different level altogether.

If not for the presence of a certain Mohamed Salah, Kane would have probably finished at the top of the goalscoring charts this season too. Despite that though, statistics do prove that the man has improved his tally and output since the season he broke into the first team.

This time around, he scored the most number of goals that he ever has not just in a single Premier League season, but in all competitions too. He found the back of the net 41 times and certainly played a vital role in helping Mauricio Pochettino’s men finish third.

It isn’t just about what he’s done for the club that he loves, but the way he has improved and matured all these years is something that is worth applause. He’s changed into a very complete player, who can do everything on the football- defend, hold it up, create and allow others to make runs into advanced areas. What is worth even more is the fact that it has happened when he was under immense pressure to deliver.

English Media's scrutiny

The infamous lap of tortures of the English media is a horrible place to be in. For many, it takes over them when things are not going well; when they aren’t the way they want it to be. In Kane’s case, it took over him when things were going the way he never thought they would- positively.

He was the rising star of world football and had come close to becoming the highest scorer in the league despite having played around a month more than half a season back in the 2014-15 campaign.

He scored 21 times that season and while doubts about continuity were a given, but for a young player like him to not score in the first six games of the next season, the pressure is incredible. Some had used that barren period to justify that he certainly was a one-season wonder after all- that he wasn’t the real deal anyway.

The same happened the next seasons too. Doubts were always raised about whether Kane would keep it up and after he endured goalless starts to the season, all doubts vanished in no time. That is, perhaps, one bane of being a highly rated superstar from England - you always have to be on your toes.

From losing to Exeter in 2011 to beating Ronaldo's Real in 2017
From losing to Exeter in 2011 to beating Ronaldo's Real in 2017

This season, Kane couldn’t score for Spurs in the opening three games. Despite many having believed that he is the real deal after he was the highest goalscorer the previous season, doubts had begun to crop up if he really was that. But Kane responded splendidly, despite all the pressure in the world, scoring eight times in the next six games.

And in the 2016-17 season, something similar had happened. While doubts about him were more, Kane couldn’t score in the first three games and after scoring two in just as many games, he succumbed to a malleolar injury.

It was all over the media that the injury will hinder his progress and that it might take a toll on his mentally, but Kane scored four hat-tricks and three braces to shut his critics up in some style.

Although, it is superb to see an Englishman progress the way he has- silencing the media and critics soundly on his way to the rise to prominence, the recent examples show that Kane has never been under more pressure than what is currently on his shoulders.

The 'claim' incident

The Chingford-born forward became the butt of jokes after he claimed a goal he contentiously claimed to be his own against Stoke City. While the English FA did award him the goal, it is doubted by a majority if Kane actually touched the ball or not and many believe that it was clearly Christian Eriksen’s goal from a free-kick.

Since then and even till now, jokes and memes about him claiming things are going viral. It is the English media that has hyped all of it, despite knowing that he will be England’s sole hope in the World Cup.

So much so that PFA Chairman Ben Purkiss spoke the line: “Harry Kane is so prolific that he is able to score without touching the ball” during the PFA Player of the Year awards ceremony. And the trolling reached its peak when the FA’s official Twitter account tweeted about Kane being pocketed by Chris Smalling during Tottenham’s 2-1 loss to Manchester United in the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

This rightly led to Kane’s family being furious with the player being the butt of jokes despite him being England’s best player and England’s only world-class player.

While it is terrible that Kane was and is still treated that way, it is a way that the man would have to get used to, considering how the Twitterati functions - vilification and villainization is the trend. It might be too much to take, but we can only hope that the pressure and burden he has on his shoulders, especially after what has transpired in the last few weeks, doesn’t affect him.

Can he respond to pressure once again?

He has dealt with pressures of being underestimated and has dealt with the pressures of performing in big games too. But he has never been treated in this manner. It is certainly a newer experience but the pressure of being the England captain in the World Cup only increases the burden.

Kane is undoubtedly one of the best strikers in the world, but it is pressures like these that can shape players, for better or worse. He did do well after coming back from the injury, scoring against Watford, Newcastle and grabbing a brace against Leicester in that 5-4 win and showed signs of regaining his match sharpness. But those jokes haven’t ended. Rather, the Twitterati haven’t realised that Kane needs protection, especially after being appointed captain, not trolling.

If this were Spain, Germany or Italy, protecting Kane would’ve been a priority. But in England, its a complete opposite. Kane is currently in the middle of the media’s infamous lap of tortures and if he does end up proving people wrong, one would’ve have to be proud of him for doing that.

England aren’t expected to go far in the World Cup and if the side underperforms, Kane will come under the limelight again. Like every other time, questions will be asked. It will be the perfect moulding chapter for him, but it can cripple him too. We can only hope and believe that Kane thrives on the pressure again. Else, it might go downhill.

How do you think Harry Kane and England will fare at the World Cup 2018? Tell us in the comments below!

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Freelance Football Writer. CalcioMercato, TheseFootballTimes InBedWithMaradona, VAVEL, OutsideoftheBoot, ForzaItalianFootball, BackPageFootball. Articles have been cited at The Sun, The Mirror and Manchester Evening News
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