Updated 12 Aug 2023 4:42 pm:
December 15th 2011 – Tallaght Stadium, Dublin
Tottenham are 3-0 ahead in their final Europa League group game against Shamrock Rovers. That result will not be enough to see them progress. Harry Redknapp’s men slog home to a third-place finish in the end. There are glimmers of hope amid the gloomy European campaign. In the 91st minute, Danny Rose’s lofted cross finds Andros Townsend near the back post, who nods the ball down to the six-yard box where it finds substitute Harry Kane.
Kane swipes into the back of the net for his first-ever Tottenham goal.
Loan moves to Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich City and Leicester City followed. It would be another two years before Kane scored for Spurs again, and another three before his first Premier League goal – a classic poachers finish from Christian Eriksen’s fizzed cross to go 2-1 ahead of lowly Sunderland.
Those goals were the beginning of a Tottenham Hotspur legend.
The Breakthrough Years
Not that many would have suspected so at the time. His highest tally on those loan spells was nine goals in twenty-seven games for Millwall. Despite the rather unremarkable returns, teammates and coaches could still see promise. Jermain Defoe says how he “just knew” Kane had something special. “Left foot, right foot, finishing was a joke,” said former Leicester teammate Chris Wood “It was then putting it into game situations for him.”
And put it into game situations he did.
The pivotal appointment of Mauricio Pochettino didn’t only transform Tottenham’s fortunes, but, on a personal level, Kane’s as well. His first season as a regular heralded twenty-one goals in forty-two appearances, with standout moments such as the winner at Villa Park and braces in victories over Arsenal and Chelsea.
The Prime Pochettino Years
Kane spearheaded Pochettino’s glory years, perfectly fitting into the intense, attack-minded yet defensively solid team around him. Comfortable in possession and relentless out of it, ‘Poch’ got the best out of Kane’s ‘9 era’, where he was the high-pressing frontman getting on the end of Eriksen assists or dragging defenders away to open up space for Dele. He won the Premier League golden boot in 2015/16 and 2016/17, helping Spurs to finish 3rd and 2nd respectively. In 2017/18 he was arguably at the peak of his goal-scoring powers, with forty-one goals in all competitions.
More highlights rolled by: A masterpiece finish against Arsenal, the winning goal against Manchester United in the final match at the old White Hart Lane, and a four-goal showcase at Leicester. The lack of investment (which is a whole other article entirely) led to Tottenham struggling to hit those heights in the league again, though still maintained Champions League finishes.
Kane was also hit by recurring injury problems, which led to him missing the majority of Tottenham’s magical run to the Champions League final in 2018/19 (though still managed five goals, including a crucial tie settler away to Borussia Dortmund). Despite these injuries, Kane still hit twenty-four goals in successive seasons – a return any good striker would be ecstatic about, but by this point, Kane was well beyond any adequate adjectives like ‘good’.
The ‘Complete Striker’ Years
The eventual departure of the main creator Christian Eriksen and the sacking of Pochettino led to a reinvention of Kane as a footballer. Under the more defensive-minded Jose Mourinho, Kane dropped deeper into midfield and began being that main creative force, as well as continuing to be the team’s primary goal threat alongside Son Heung-Min, who he formed a record-breaking partnership with.
This adaptation of his game won him praise from Thierry Henry amongst others. “We all know what he can do and all know what he can do in the box, but what he does outside of the box now for his team this is something that I have to respect massively. He became for me, over the last two, three years, a complete striker”.
The match that illustrates this transformation best is his all-around masterclass in a victory away to Man City in 2021/22, which is up there with some of the great Premier League individual performances. As a further indication of both the change in his style of play and the boundless quality he possessed, Kane would take home the Premier League Golden Boot and Playmaker of the Season awards in 2020/21.
In the most recent years, Kane and Son virtually carried Tottenham to European football season after season. The pair’s burden was alleviated slightly when, under the stewardship of Antonio Conte, Dejan Kulusevski was added to the front three and Rodrigo Bentancur to midfield, who was instrumental in progressing the ball up the pitch.
Conte’s reign failed to kick on after a 4th placed finish in the Italian’s first season. A disappointing 7th place and no European football for the first time since 2009/10 left Kane pondering his future at the Lane, likely yearning for a team that could match his ambition better. Though he was most probably frustrated for a lot of last season, that didn’t stop him from performing, scoring thirty Premier League goals for the third time in his career.
One of those goals was extra special.
February 5th 2023 – Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
Spurs welcome Manchester City to the Premier League. Pep Guardiola’s men are second, chasing down Tottenham’s North London rivals Arsenal to the league title. Spurs sit in fifth, with Cristian Stellini taking charge while Conte was out after an operation.
Fifteen minutes in Rodri’s sluggish pass is hunted down and intercepted by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who drives into the box and lays it off to Kane. Cool as you like, the England record scorer slots home and, in that moment, he becomes the Tottenham record scorer too. Chants of ‘He’s one of our own’ ring around the capacity crowd as it has done – home and away – since his breakthrough.
267 goals for Tottenham, beating Jimmy Greaves’ long-standing record.
It was the culmination of a journey that started long before his debut goal in Ireland. It started in Tottenham’s academy. Amongst the many dreams you have as a football fan, one of them is to see players from your club’s youth system break into the first team. We Tottenham fans haven’t just been treated to that, but have seen one of our own become one of the best players in world football.
The story of Harry Kane is an inspiring story of hard work, patience and desire. Defying expectations, continuously improving, and becoming the best you could be in the hope that the accolades would follow. In an age where the public and press pine for footballers to use their platforms and become role models, Kane’s unwavering professionalism and commitment to his club and country is something to uphold.
While his personal accolades never ceased, the elusive titles, cups and winning medals were a constant source of frustration for a player that richly deserved them. However, although his ultimate dream (to win trophies) has eventually lured him away from N17, what Harry Kane has left at Tottenham is a legacy as strong as any silverware.
Author’s Note to Harry Kane (should he ever read this): Thank you for everything Harry. It was a joy and a pleasure to watch you play for my club. I hope your path crosses with Tottenham’s again.