Kane is England’s goal king but Southgate has others ready to roar in Russia

Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Neymar. They all carry a huge burden at this World Cup. Star players. Goalscorers. Leaders.

Every nation has a figurehead at a ­tournament, and England’s is Harry Kane.

The ability to handle pressure and deal with big moments is a hallmark of these players, and that is the world Harry is ­stepping into.

He has proved over several seasons in the Premier League that he is his team’s main man, and the statistics back him up.

He has scored 135 goals for Tottenham since the last World Cup in 2014.

There are two possible scenarios.

Firstly, and I think the most likely, is that he’ll rise to Gary Lineker’s suggestion, bang in the goals, and challenge to become the first English player to get the Golden Boot since the man himself scored six in 1986.

Or ­secondly, England will need heroes from elsewhere in the squad – which I also ­believe they have.


First of all, let’s consider Harry. The ­priority is getting him in the same positions he finds for Spurs, so he can put the ball in the back of the net.

He has not scored at a major tournament yet, and that includes playing for the ­England Under-21s. There is no doubt that will be in people’s minds.

He was heavily criticised two years ago at the Euros, as the Three Lions crashed out in the last 16. He certainly didn’t play there the way he plays for ­Tottenham.

England’s midfield didn’t give him that supply line. He wasn’t getting those balls through to him. It wasn’t like he missed loads of chances, he simply wasn’t getting chances.

It was a bit like that for him with Spurs at the end of last season. But then, with Harry, it can change in a hurry. Bang, goal. Bang, goal.

If Harry steps forward, then we’ll have a much greater chance of getting to the latter stages of the tournament.

You can argue that he couldn’t have a better chance to get early goals with ­Tunisia and Panama up first. But these teams can make it difficult by putting up the ­shutters and playing ­defensively.

Hopefully, he will get an early goal to settle ­everything. Everyone ­expects a Harry Kane goal, and if he gets an early one, I would not be surprised if he knocked in a hat-trick and went on to test that record of Gary’s.

It is all about him ­getting off the mark quickly.

Think about his last two Premier League seasons. He didn’t get off the mark early and the goals dried up for a while – but then he ­became a scoring ­machine. He is known for his August dry spell, so he doesn’t want to have an “August” World Cup.

It is difficult to overestimate what Lineker achieved with his six goals in ­Mexico 86 and four at Italia 90. Gary has mentioned it and challenged Harry to go and beat it, but it is a big number. It helps to go far in the competition for a start!

But what I like about Gareth Southgate’s ethos, and this England squad, is that the focus has been taken off the individual and all that star-man hoopla, wherever possible.

We have put so much emphasis on one big star in previous tournaments, when the likes of Wayne Rooney, David Beckham and Michael Owen had to shoulder that burden.

It made us easy to play against. The ­opposition would look to take out that man and shut down his opportunities. From Wayne’s perspective he had to play a bit deeper.

Defences knew he was the danger man and figured, ‘You won’t cause us problems if we force you deeper and we can handle that’. In fairness to him, Owen always scored goals in big games. His record was reasonably good.

The beauty of this squad is that if Kane isn’t doing it, we will still be all right.

I think we have enough players in there who can score goals now. We have not had that before. In past squads, you would ­wonder who was capable of pulling the proverbial rabbit out of the hat.

Four years ago in Brazil, we had a very young Raheem Sterling, Rooney, and Daniel Sturridge was our big hope. But he got the No.9 spot and was then put out wide.

Now you look at us and there is flexibility. If you want to play a bit of counter-­attacking football, Jamie Vardy is your man.

Marcus Rashford can ­basically do ­anything he wants at the ­minute – go deep, take it short.


Raheem Sterling arrives at the World Cup having scored 20 goals this season and, if that doesn’t give you confidence, I don’t know what will. And then, of course, there is Dele Alli, who is a natural goalscorer.

We all want Kane to get those goals, but we also have plenty of other ­attacking options.

I believe our forward line is good enough to enable England to win the World Cup.

It is just a question of how often we can get them the ball to create the damage I know they can cause.

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