Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

Prolific Harry Kane on target to overhaul Wayne Rooney's England goals record

The Tottenham striker's brace against Kosovo took him to 32 goals in under five years of international football

The low, far-post finish made it four goals in four days. Or a joint record 12 for England in a calendar year. Or 32 in an international career which, strange as it sounds, is still only four years and eight months old. In doubling England’s lead in Kosovo, Harry Kane extended his extraordinary scoring sequence.

No one scored more goals in England’s first 90 years of international football than Kane has mustered in the last five. Of the quintet of players ahead of him in England’s all-time scoring charts, only Jimmy Greaves reached 32 goals in fewer games than Kane, who has 45 caps. It took Wayne Rooney 78 matches.

“I love scoring goals,” said Kane and if that was a statement of the obvious, he has shown a relentlessness which means that, even as Spurs have struggled and some his Tottenham Hotspur displays have drawn criticism, he has 20 goals in 21 games for club and country this season. He has shown a predator’s capacity to prey on the weak and if England’s qualifying groups tend to consist of the substandard, the potency of both Kane and an attack-minded team make them appear still more frail. Routs become ever more frequent, in turn increasing Kane’s goal tally.

One England nonpareil believes Kane will become another. “I think he has got a great chance of breaking the record,” said Peter Shilton after the striker’s hat-trick in Thursday’s 7-0 thrashing of Montenegro. Shilton’s tally of 125 caps will remain unchallenged for several more years, at the least. At Kane’s current rate of progress, he will be threatening Rooney’s record of 53 goals by the end of 2021. More realistically, perhaps, he could claim it at some stage in 2023, the year he turns 30.

It feels eminently likely. There is a theory Kane may decline early, a combination of his annual ankle injuries and the huge workload of a man who has clocked up 277 games, largely in the high-intensity football of Mauricio Pochettino and Gareth Southgate.

There is a precedent for English forwards peaking soon and then tailing off. Greaves’ and Michael Owen’s last international goals came at 27, though Kane has never been as reliant on pace as they were. He will not fall from favour under Southgate as they did under Alf Ramsey and Fabio Capello respectively. While Tammy Abraham represents a younger challenger, he lacks Kane’s passing; the Tottenham man can double up as supplier when Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling accelerate past him. While Rashford has been prolific for England recently, Southgate has suggested the Manchester United man is “happiest” operating off the flank. He seems Kane’s sidekick, not his successor.

In typically down-to-earth fashion, Kane has shrugged off talk of overhauling Rooney. “It’s still a long way off,” he said in September, after passing Geoff Hurst. He has added seven goals since then. Two months ago, he said his next landmark was 30. He passed that against Montenegro.

He could be deemed a flat-track bully. Only four of his first 32 have come against elite nations: two versus France, one apiece against Germany and Croatia. Yet records measure quantity of goals, rather than quality of opponents and Rooney was England’s highest scorer in qualifiers but, apart from Euro 2004, often a let-down in tournaments. Kane may have benefited from his perfect penalty taking against the minnows – and with the speed and trickery of Sterling, Rashford and Jadon Sancho, England should keep winning spot kicks – but it is already the case that Gary Lineker is the only Englishman with more World Cup goals. In four years, there may be none with more goals in the international game.

Updated: November 18, 2019 04:33 PM

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