Can we please stop talking about England’s Harry Kane?

By Tim Todd, American English National Team Advisor

England were a delight to behold, soon delivering the most expansive football seen since the thrashing of Germany in 2001. The David Beckham era is over, the Walcott era has begun. – Henry Winter, 2008

Eighty odd thousand fans welcomed his introduction with incredible warmth. At that moment it became obvious that Kane is not just ‘one of our own’ to Tottenham fans but has also somehow become a national favourite before even kicking a ball for England. – Alan Smith, 2015

Henry Winter described Theo Walcott’s introduction to the English national team using the metaphor of a comet. Walcott streaked across the field, Walcott sparkled, and sputtered, and sure enough, Walcott’s brightness on that day, the day he scored a hattrick against Croatia, might have caused the ancients to marvel. Though, I’m not sure the ancients would have painted Walcott on their cave walls because as it turns out Walcott couldn’t repeat his sparkling feat and was more meteor than comet. And now England turns their collective hopes to a shining new extraterrestrial body, Harry Kane.

It’s an interesting phenomenon about England, they tend toward a heroization of individuals in the context of a collective game. If Gordon Banks makes a great save, he wins the game. If Charlie George scores a goal, he wins the cup. If Theo Walcott scores a hat trick against 10 men Croatia in a World Cup qualifier, he’s the next best thing since David Beckham. If Harry Kane is left unmarked at the far post in the last 10 minutes of a game that England has already won 3-1 and he heads the ball right at the keeper while the hapless defender looks completely disinterested, he’s the next Lionel Messi (even if he looks more like the next Peter Crouch). But the Harry Kane story isn’t so much about Harry Kane, it’s a story about how desperate the English national team supporters are for a hero and how little they really need one.

Harry Kane is now everything to everyone in English football an is even being held up as a symbol of what English football clubs “ought” to be doing to bring young Englishmen up through the ranks and ultimately improve the English national team. The FA are so desperate for a savior that Greg Dyke wondered:-

How many other Harry Kanes are around in the youth teams of Premier League clubs?

Here’s a clue, none. He’s a one-off. He wasn’t discovered by “chance” plying his trade in some stock room. He worked his bollocks off to get where he is and was repaid when he was given a chance at Tottenham by Pochettino. And here’s another clue, Harry Kane isn’t even that good. His technique is no better than Andy Carroll, he just applies himself better. He tries real hard and the English love a good tryer.

Harry Kane is a lark. He’s not part of a Tottenham pipeline of young English talent being brought through the ranks. He’s one guy, who applied himself after being rejected by Arsenal,

Harry was always someone who was going to get better just by the sheer volume of work he was willing to do, and by the mentality he would demonstrate on a daily basis to invest in himself. He had a fantastic desire to improve and would always want to do extra work at the end of a session,” recalls Inglethorpe. “He became obsessive about his finishing in all its various forms and would dedicate a huge amount of time to improve these aspects of his game.

That individual work ethic is much lauded in English coaching circles and it has to be, because truth be told the academies aren’t doing their jobs.

And so while Hurricane Harry Kane wreaks its destruction through the English football landscape the one true model of how English clubs and academies actually ought to be operating is left almost forgotten in a little town just north of the Isle of Wright.

England is a football crazy country. There are more clubs, academies, and fans than any country in the world. And yet, it’s telling that the Football Association is proposing what amounts to Affirmative Action quotas for Englishmen in order to cover up for the failings of the academy system in England. They want to, as Wenger says, “protect the mediocre” instead of producing the best.

Wenger’s proposed solution is to plow money into academy coaching, to hire the very best youth coaches and have those folks develop the millions of young kids who are playing football in England. As Wenger might say, what England needs is fewer Harry Kane stories and more stories about academy successes like Southampton.

I agree, it’s not the one percent rare talent that England need to produce more of — if we agree that Harry Kane is one of them (I don’t) then we could use Harry Kane as an example here. Those people will naturally produce themselves, because those folks already have that drive and desire to be the very best. What England need to produce¹ is more top level talent throughout the entire ranks of English football. This is essentially what Southampton have done and continue to do.

Southampton have a fraction of the resources of a club like Tottenham and yet they count among their graduates Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, and Calum Chambers. Southampton produce quality and a lot of it. That’s what England needs more of, quality academy players fighting for places against quality foreigners, playing in the best league in the world. If you manage to do that, I’ve no doubt England could win a World Cup.

The other main thing that England need to produce is fewer journalists prone to hype. The hype machine in England seems to be going non-stop all the time. Look at the careers of any player hyped by the press: Walcott, chosen for the World Cup as a 17 year old, dropped as a 21 year old; Rooney, tipped as the best footballer of his generation, more likely to get a red card in a big match for England than a game winning goal; and now Harry Kane, goal poacher extraordinaire, literally called a “hero” in the article above written by Alan Smith.

What did Harry Kane do to win the title “hero”? Did he save a village in Afghanistan from the Taliban? Did he get arrested taking a stand for minorities? Did he don a cape and mask and rescue people from evildoers? Nope, he scored a few tap-ins this season; one of them for England, well after the match had already been won by Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck. I don’t know much about many things, but I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of the word “hype.”


¹This same argument holds true for Major League Soccer in the USA. Too much focus is on acquiring star players when it should be on raising the level of the game entirely.


Saturday morning with no football

Saturday morning
and we got nothing to do
gonna hit the road together
gonna go hiking with you.

Let the yard grow taller
I don’t care about that ivy
We’re not washing our dog Pepper
let the stinker stay all grimy.

I’m not doing laundry
I’m not working in the garden
I’m not fixing that old faucet
I’ll just have to beg your pardon.

But…Let me get the cooler
and wrap up sandwiches to go
you’ll take peanut butter jelly,
I’ll have myself a sloppy joe!

Gotta bring the rootbeer
springtime hiking makes us thirsty
because we stop at Stewarts meats
and eat a pound of Famous Jerky!

Then we’ll drive to Morton
and make up silly knock knock jokes*
swinging round the twisty bends
laughter rings through mountain oaks!

Up into the mountains
kicking rocks down dusty roads
driving near a scary valley
turns our brains to frightened toads.

We reach our destination
(driving here is half the fun)
our legs are aching to start walking
you get out and start to run!

Past the rocky entrance
the forest is so heavy quiet
you can hear the river rushing
watch out for the horse fly riot!

First we pass the bear cave
then across three falls a-streaming
As I lift you over rocks
I see your smiling face is beaming.

Then we reach the main event
it spits out of the clouds above
and splatters on a mossy rock
the waterfall that we both love.

Let’s have lunch and stay a while
Let’s have lunch and stay forever
Forget about the world back there
This lovely place is far too clever.

But we’re out of jerky, Dad!
And rootbeer too it seems, my dear
the sandwiches have been devoured
we’ll starve if we don’t get out of here.

Now we trudge back to the truck
we know the day is almost through
and even if there’s a pile of chores
I’m glad I spent this day with you.

*Knock knock! Who’s there?
Melissa! Melissa who?

Knock Knock! Who’s there?
River dam. River dam who?
River didn’t damn it, the people did!

Van Persie and Rooney sing the body electric

Van Persie, Klopp, Szczesny, and transfers

By Tim Todd, chief senior editor at large (gained 4 pounds in the last month!)

Let’s get old school with today’s post and hit a bunch of Arsenal news stories all at once. If I ran this site at all like a business I would post each as its own “article” but I don’t. So, limber up those fingers because there is a lot of Arsenal news to talk about.

Surprise, van Persie is 5th highest paid player in the world

Robin van Persie is the 5th highest paid footballer in the world. Let that sink in for a minute. This is a player who publicly proclaimed that he was leaving Arsenal because he disagreed with the direction of the club and who was “suddenly” catapulted into the stratosphere as far as wages and endorsements are concerned. He makes more money than Zlatan Ibrahamovich.

There is never any doubt in my mind that when a player demands to leave a club the main reason is money. They will tell you it’s for football reasons or that it’s because of the “direction of the club” but as far as I can tell, the preponderance of the evidence points to money. In van Persie’s case, I suspect that he was tapped up in the winter before the transfer market opened up (something we are seeing now) and was told that if he joined United, they would not only top up his pay packet but also help him land huge endorsement deals¹. It was an offer too good to refuse.

He got lucky, frankly, and won a title in his first season, Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season, but he’ll never win another League title again. In fact, he may never win another piece of silverware. If that prediction comes true, Robin van Persie will have won 1 trophy with Arsenal and 1 with Man U.

We will never know what could have been but my feeling is that if van Persie had chosen to honor his time with Arsenal and repay the club for the four years he spent collecting a paycheck from the treatment room Arsenal would have won a League title with van Persie. Look at how close this club is now. Imagine Özil and van Persie playing together. It’s easy to see that Arsenal would have been serious contenders. I feel confident saying that even if van Persie is nicking a living off Man U.

Transfer Talk!

It’s international break and the transfer window closed two months ago and won’t re-open until… August? So, why is my news feed filling up with stories about Arsenal pre-signing no less than five players?

Apparently, the Gunners are after Luiz Adriano, Paulo Dybala, Carlos Castro, Dani Alves, and Mateo Kovacic. Also, Chris Smalling, Petr Cech, Schneiderlin, Marco Reus, and the remainder of the Borussia Dortmund team.

I know that clubs get their business done earlier than we probably think (see the van Persie story above) but is it now just so well known that clubs are tapping up players all over the globe that the papers, agents, players, and clubs can be so brazen about it?

My feeling is that Arsenal will buy someone this summer. It will probably be none of the names above. But long-term Arsenal need replacements for Mertesacker, Koscielny, Arteta, and Szczesny.

Szczesny in particular. Did you know that he’s been dropped nearly every season he’s been at Arsenal? I have to wonder how much longer Wenger will persist?

Wenger to be replaced with Klopp

This is one of my favorite stories of the year. I’m not one to subscribe to the Metro or the Express but I do subscribe to ESPN’s Arsenal news feed. So, imagine my surprise when I found an ESPN article in my feed claiming that Wenger might be out the door this summer.

Ian Holyman, the ESPN author, claimed that there were “reports” that Wenger could leave before the end of his contract. Those of us who have been following Arsenal for more than a minute know that Wenger has always honored his contracts. So, what are these “reports” that Holyman referred to?

An article in the Express which, and again I wish I was kidding, used the fact that a betting firm “slashed” the odds on Wenger finishing his contract as the basis for their “report.” I get approached to write articles like this all the time. If that betting firm didn’t pay the Express to write that article I’ll be surprised.

So, to conclude, ESPN used what looks a lot like an advertisement for a betting firm as the basis for “reports”.

I guess that settles that then?


¹This isn’t something unique to United, Arsenal do it too.