- Harry Kane played under Peter Taylor at the 2013 U-20 World Cup
- England eliminated in group stage, but Kane scored and emerged with credit
- Taylor: “His finishing was outstanding even then”
The year is 2013, and the players and staff of England’s U-20 squad are standing around waiting in their hotel. The occasion? A golf-putting challenge. Everyone is dressed in their casual training gear, they drop a small amount of Turkish Lira in to share among the eventual winner – but nobody is really taking it seriously. It’s just a bit of fun. Then in steps the team’s No9, clad head to toe in professional golf gear, ready to take on his team-mates, provoking raucous laughter among the squad.
Harry Kane had made his mark before the FIFA U-20 World Cup had even begun.
“The last thing that you needed was quiet people in this group of players,” Peter Taylor, then coach of the U-20 side, who retells the story. “You wanted people to be good for the team spirit. It was so funny – right from his golf hat, down to his golf shoes. To me, he thought about it a little bit, was going to try and help me create a bit of team spirit. I loved him for it.”
The Tottenham Hotspur and England forward’s rise since that tournament has been nothing short of meteoric. He broke into the Spurs first team in the 2013/14 campaign and has not looked back – scoring goal after goal at club level and for the Three Lions at senior level, securing the adidas Golden Boot at the 2018 FIFA World Cup™. He has also been nominated for The Best FIFA Men’s Player for three years running, including for the latest edition.
But how did he actually get on at that U-20 World Cup, at Turkey 2013?
“I’m probably the only manager he didn’t score a hatful of goals for!” Taylor smiled. “He didn’t have a great tournament, but when he got home he never stopped scoring. Harry came out of the tournament with credit as a professional player and a good player, but he would’ve been disappointed that we came home too early because we didn’t score enough goals.”
England may have been eliminated from Turkey 2013 at the group stages, but all three of the Young Lions’ goals involved Kane – he scored once and set up the other two. Despite the poor overall outcome, Taylor saw Kane’s quality every day in training.
“His finishing was outstanding even then, with both feet,” Taylor recalled. “He didn’t have to run far away from the ball to get power, he just had a short step and wallop. He’d always test the goalkeeper.
“He thinks about his first touch so much because he’s always thinking about goals. He gets into such good positions so he can strike with his second touch at the most. He’s a very thoughtful striker.”
Kane’s golf outfit showcased a good sense of humour, but it was perhaps an allusion to his commitment to everything that he does. During Taylor’s long managerial career – with spells at the helm of England’s youth teams – the now Dagenham and Redbridge coach has worked with some outstanding young forwards in Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Theo Walcott.
“Harry’s the best striker that I’ve worked with,” Taylor said. “He’s got the whole lot. He can hold the ball up, he’s a good size. He’s got the full package. He gets into the right areas in the box, but he can also score from distance because he’s got two excellent feet.
“Harry’s also definitely one of those who was there every morning working on his game. He does it right.”
Did he see a future Tottenham and England star in the making out in Turkey?
“I’d be lying to you if I said I thought he was going to be as good a player as he’s turned out to be,” Taylor said. “But it just shows you what a committed professional can do – both in belief and ability. Through his determination alone, he knew that if he was going to get a chance to play for Spurs, he was going to grab it.
“Harry gives me the impression that he will have no regrets when he finishes playing because he has maximised his ability.”
Will Kane go from being above par in that 2013 putting tournament, to The Best in 2019?