Could it be lucky thirteen? Harry Kane might be England’s latest hot property to hit the headlines, but don’t get too excited about winning Euro 2016 just yet.
After Kane scored his first international goal on Friday night just 80 seconds into his national debut, the media predictably went into a state of frenzy. The Tottenham youngster found the net with a truly characteristic right-place-right-time headed goal to join the ever growing group of England debutants to notch on their first Wembley outing.
The stats however, don’t look favourable for Kane. The hype has come before, and customarily gone before. Many of England’s current squad members have passed through the same ritual as the 21-year old and all failed to live up to the needs of the nation. The media hype unofficially began following England’s failure to qualify for the European Championships in 2008, when famously, under Steve McLaren’s enormous umbrella, they narrowly missed out through a Scott Carson calamity in the Wembley rain.
Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott had both received the VIP treatment from newspapers up and down the country, but Rooney at least, ignoring all but one major tournaments he has appeared in, has lived up to the billing with 48 goals for his country.
Joe Hart made his international bow in 2008. His hype, much like Rooney’s has seemingly been worth it as the Shrewsbury born shot-stopper remains England’s undisputed number one. However, following another disappointing display at the 2010 World Cup where England were knocked out with embarrassing ease at the hands of Germany, hysteria began to creep into the British media.
The re-building began in August and Jack Wilshere made his debut. Here was the answer to English football’s problems. A box-to-box playmaking midfielder, central to Arsenal's renowned beautiful passing system, Wilshere was dubbed the next Scholes.
The years since have been less than kind to Wilshere. A period plagued with long-term injuries and rehabilitation courses, he has struggled to make his way back into the England set-up and has found himself pushed down the pecking order by Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson. In 2011, Pep Guardiola famously claimed his Barcelona reserves were all as good as Wilshere. The saviour never quite emerged.
2011 and 2012 saw a new wave of attacking talent break through the international ranks. Now under Roy Hodgson, Danny Welbeck, Daniel Sturridge, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling all broke into the starting XI. All four received the praise of the English media.
With all four players still central to Hodgson’s plans today, they are undoubtedly positive additions to the national set-up. None of which have lived up to the hype set about them as yet but given their youth it is perhaps feasible to suggest that Sturridge and Sterling especially still have potential to improve. Whether they will, is another matter entirely.
The aftermath of yet another disappointing display at a major tournament, this time at the hands of a lacklustre, defensive display against Italy in Euro 2012, Hodgson fielded five new talents in 2013 and 2014. Ross Barkley, Adam Lallana, Andros Townsend, Rickie Lambert and Luke Shaw all made their international debuts.
Townsend and Lambert both scored on their debuts, like Kane, and Townsend was dubbed the next big thing by the press. As a result, whether directly or indirectly, Townsend’s performances for his club side Tottenham as they sought to replace the crater left by the departure of Gareth Bale temporarily hit new heights.
However, Townsend soon fell down the pecking order at Tottenham and has seldom appeared for England since. Only now is his club career beginning to pick back up.
Shaw is another example of this hype gone wrong. His performances for Southampton earned him a move to Manchester United, but he has suffered with injuries since the World Cup and amongst accusations he is not fit enough to compete at the top level, has rarely appeared for his club let alone his country.
Harry Kane therefore, is a new wave of English talent hyped by the British media. Following the worst display by an England team at a major tournament in years at last summer’s World Cup, expectations are at an all-time low.
In spite of this, Kane is still receiving the hype off the media that can either make him, or like club-mate Townsend and the rest of England’s failed stars, break him. With 19 goals in the Premier League this season, making him joint top-scorer with Chelsea’s Diego Costa, the hype does appear to be real.
With each game and each story published about him, Kane seems to be growing from strength to strength and his performances are testament to that. But, England, the media and the country as a whole, must be careful how much pressure is placed on his shoulders.
Hype him up too soon, he will be set-up for the biggest fall of a modern player since Wilshere. Hype him up too slowly, Kane may struggle to hit the heights he appears to be capable of. If he is nurtured and protected in equal measure, which means not blooding him in the senior squad too soon and allowing him to play in the Under 21’s European Championships this summer, Harry Kane could become one of the greatest out-and-out strikers England has produced for a very long time.
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