Harry Kane points the way to Norwich City’s Premier League progress
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It was inevitable Harry Kane would play a leading role in reminding Norwich City how wide the gulf is in the Premier League.
"Harry Kane’s footballing growth since his brief sojourn in Norfolk is nothing short of astonishing. The uncertain teen has become a goalscoring machine."
Kane is no longer the callow youth who was unable to hit the proverbial barn door during a brief and injury-disrupted loan spell at Carrow Road in his teens.
The 22-year-old is one of English football’s brightest striking talents and the natural heir to Wayne Rooney’s mantle as his country’s main man.
Kane’s second goal at White Hart Lane, after escaping the attentions of Ryan Bennett and Seb Bassong to unleash a shot which was past Declan Rudd before he could fully extend his arms, saw him eclipse Teddy Sheringham as Tottenham’s record league scorer in a calendar year.
His 27th of a productive 2015 effectively turned this game from a contest into a procession. Norwich were competitive and aggressive in the opening skirmishes. Vadis Odjidja tested Hugo Lloris, who then punched clear Robbie Brady’s delivery arrowing towards his top corner, before Cameron Jerome rose above Toby Alderweirweld but was unable to keep his close range header under the Frenchman’s bar.
There was a pleasing degree of restlessness in the home ranks. Mauricio Pochettino’s bellowing voice was audible above a subdued Tottenham crowd as he exhorted his precociously-talented young men for greater effort and application. How they responded.
Another of English football’s emerging gems, Dele Alli, imperiously moved centre stage; his brand of energy and invention a template for the modern footballer.
Norwich, collectively and individually, simply had no answer to Tottenham’s double act.
Alli’s vision and weight of pass in the lead up to Spurs’ penalty was anticipated by Kane, who was tipped over by Rudd’s desperate sliding challenge. Few in green appeared to argue. The only debating point was whether Mike Jones would opt to cut short the keeper’s afternoon.
Thankfully for the Canaries, Rudd remained on the pitch. Without his shot-stopping prowess City would have suffered a much heavier dent to their goal difference, and confidence, fuelled by that first win at Manchester United in 26 years.
Home games either side of the new year against Aston Villa and Southampton always looked liked the defining phase of Norwich’s festive programme, but after Old Trafford there was genuine optimism they could halt a rampant Spurs. Reality was a sobering experience.
Kane’s footballing growth since his brief sojourn in Norfolk is nothing short of astonishing. The uncertain teen has become a goalscoring machine.
There is no shame or blame attached to Alex Neil’s side, given many other top flight rivals have been unable to thwart him. City should dwell on the striker’s successful transition and apply the lesson to their own evolutionary path.
Kane had to convince the doubters, after less than prolific loan spells at Norwich and Leicester, that he possessed the ability and mental capacity to not only operate but flourish in the Premier League. Now it is frankly absurd to question either premise, but any who saw him in the yellow of Norwich would scarcely believe they were watching the same striker.
City continue to wrestle with similar growing pains. Unlike Kane they do not have the security of a guaranteed place at the top table to develop. Villa’s visit to Carrow Road marks the turning point of a season that is hurtling along on an exhilarating ride that will only gather pace as we reach the defining conclusion.
The Canaries’ two most recent away outings help illustrate a top flight truism for those clubs who harbour more modest ambitions.
Norwich, certainly at this early phase of their Premier League development the second time around, need to catch the best on an off day. City were excellent at Old Trafford but it would be churlish to ignore the circus around Louis van Gaal and those disgruntled United supporters.
There were no such favourable conditions to exploit at White Hart Lane once Alli and Kane had unlocked Norwich’s defence twice before the interval.
Then it was time to batten down the hatches and rely on Rudd’s instincts and some over-elaborate finishing from the dominant home side. One could perhaps excuse the time and space afforded to Tom Carroll to seal the win; by that late stage there was a weariness to the Canaries’ collective work and perhaps an acceptance of their fate.
But it is still all to play for in the game that really matters.
Day trips to the elite will not define Norwich’s season, they merely underline how tough the terrain is to survive and prosper in the big league. Just ask Master Kane.