Harry Kane received the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the area. The striker span around to make space for himself and, without lifting his head, unleashed a right-footed shot which curled past Fulham goalkeeper Bernd Leno and into the bottom corner. In an instant, history had been made at Craven Cottage.
Kane’s super strike in first-half stoppage time turned out to be the winner last Sunday, but it was much more significant than that: it was his 266th goal in all competitions for Tottenham Hotspur and equalled the tally of Spurs’ all-time top scorer, Jimmy Greaves.
In his post-match interview and analysis of his record-equalling strike on Sky Sports, it was put to Kane that he had not even looked up before hitting his shot. With typical understatement, he replied: “I’ve been playing football long enough now to know where the goal is.”
🗣️ "I've been playing football long enough now to know where the goal is" 😂
Harry Kane talks us through THAT goal after joining Jimmy Greaves as Tottenham’s all-time record goalscorer 👏 pic.twitter.com/t5OBTYfFmb
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 23, 2023
No doubt about that. Kane’s 266 goals for Spurs and 53 for England mean he is now the joint-top scorer for club and country. Soon, he will hold both records outright. But the reaction to the 29-year-old’s latest milestone has not all been positive. Far from it.
Although he received praise from many, Kane’s 266th goal for Tottenham also brought derision and ridicule on social media. Out came all the usual quips about him having not won any trophies. The trolls and the naysayers had been waiting.
Many of these people are probably the same ones who labelled Kane as a “one-season wonder” when he started scoring consistently for Tottenham back in 2014-15. That jibe is in the past now, but the one about him not winning trophies will not go away.
Does Kane’s lack of silverware make his achievements any less impressive? It should not. Football is a team sport and with the sheer amount of games played in a season, it is almost always the strongest squads that claim the major prizes. Over the past decade, Tottenham have come close to winning a trophy, but have ultimately fallen short. That is not his fault.
For England, he has featured in one major final (Euro 2020) and in the semi-finals and quarter-finals of the World Cup. Fans of other clubs often claim Kane failed to turn up in those matches, but the reality is that Gareth Southgate’s conservative approach make it difficult against the very best. Forced to drop deep and create himself, the captain’s influence is reduced. He did miss a penalty against France in Qatar, of course, but again England did not create many clear chances.
In the three finals he has played for Spurs, they have been beaten by better teams: by Chelsea in the 2015 League Cup final, by Liverpool in the 2019 Champions League final and by Manchester City in the 2021 League Cup showpiece. No player can do it all alone. Lionel Messi, perhaps the greatest ever, has only recently won trophies with Argentina, despite being the best. Individual quality cannot and should not be measured by collective results.
What an incredible achievement for @HKane to equal the great @jimmy_greaves as all-time top scorer for @SpursOfficial. And, yes, before you start, I know he’s not won anything. Also, that fact doesn’t make him any the less of a footballer.
— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) January 23, 2023
In the Premier League, Tottenham finished third, second and third under Mauricio Pochettino in successive seasons. That was the Lilywhites’ best run in the top flight since the early 1960s. It did not bring a title, but they were close, and Pochettino’s pleas for the team to be strengthened fell on deaf ears. Spurs fell away.
Turbulent times have followed, but Kane’s excellence has been a constant through it all. While some keep on criticising, he has kept on scoring. In fact, his game these days is much more than goals. Harry is a hybrid, a scorer and a creator: a ‘9’ and a ‘10’. Fittingly, those are the numbers he wears for England and Tottenham.
The next record in Kane’s sights will be Alan Shearer’s Premier League mark of 260 goals. Currently on 199 and at the age of 29, he has plenty of time to achieve that. Shearer, incidentally, won only one major trophy in his career: a Premier League title with Blackburn Rovers. Lineker ended his playing days without a league title and Greaves (seen below in action for Spurs at White Hart Lane) joined Tottenham the season after their League and FA Cup double in 1961. He did win a few cups, but his sole league title came in Italy, many months after he had left AC Milan. And he himself admitted he had never felt part of England’s World Cup win in 1966, having suffered an injury in the Three Lions’ third group game and not featured at all in the knockout stages.
It has sometimes been said that Kane’s appearance makes him look like he is from a bygone era. One early column remarked that he resembled a “British soldier in a World War II film – one of the ones that never make it to the end”. His loyalty to Tottenham is also a rare quality in modern football. Yes, he was tempted by a move to Manchester City in 2021, but he ultimately stayed and rediscovered his best form.
Whether Kane decides to leave and seek silverware in the final years of his career remains to be seen. Only he will know what he wants deep down. If he had joined City in 2021, he would almost certainly have a Premier League title by now. Would that mean more to him than winning a trophy with Tottenham one day? Surely not.
The vast majority of football clubs and players do not even win trophies anyway. To become the all-time top scorer at the team you support is a huge achievement. Immortality. To become the all-time scorer for your country as well, is the stuff of legends. How many players have both records? Messi with Argentina and Barcelona. Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal and Real Madrid. Pelé with Santos and Brazil (although Neymar is poised to overtake his total for the national team). Gigi Riva for Italy and Cagliari. Ferenc Puskas with Budapest Honved and Hungary. Elite company.
Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney is also on that list at the moment, though he will be surpassed by Kane when the Tottenham striker scores his next England goal.
Before that, away to Preston North End in the FA Cup on Saturday, Kane will have the chance to become Spurs’ all-time leading scorer in his own right.
Outside Preston’s Deepdale stadium, there is a statue of the legendary Tom Finney, one of England’s all-time greats who was noted for his loyalty to the club despite never winning a trophy there. It would be an apt place for Kane to take the Tottenham record outright. And like Finney, he will rightly go down in football folklore – with or without silverware.
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