Michael Bailey: Harry Kane and Norwich City's unwritten influence of the England captain's rise to stardom
Maybe it wasn't all bad at Norwich City, for the man now leading England in Russia - Michael Bailey toys with Canaries' history and that man, Harry Kane.
It became a phrase to poke fun at Norwich City – the thought of signing another 19-year-old rookie striker at 11pm on transfer deadline day.
On the outside, there always appeared an air of desperation around Harry Kane’s late arrival on loan from Tottenham Hotspur – seen as a chance for a fresh, young and promising face at Spurs to sample some Premier League football under Chris Hughton at the Canaries.
As we all know, what followed didn’t go well – hence the recurring joke. But for one missed chance and a broken bone in his foot, it could have been so different.
And what has happened since Kane’s two years of loans – chronologically at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester –is nothing short of remarkable; to the point where City might get to say they signed and played someone that went on to earn the golden boot at a World Cup.
Suddenly, there is no way such a past piece of Canaries transfer business could possibly be considered in the same light.
But perhaps one angle that does get missed is how the man himself felt come his time at Norwich City.
On being unveiled and speaking to us reporters for the first time, was a level-headed striker hoping to prove his worth. He had already proven a success at Championship strugglers Millwall in 2012, helping the Lions to survival.
It’s worth noting the thoughts of City’s chief scout Ewan Chester at this point – the man who persuaded Chris Hughton to seek Kane’s services.
“I’ve always made a point in my scouting career of seeing players play at Millwall, either for or against – because I think it’s a great environment to judge their character,” Chester told me.
“The fact Harry went down there, obviously under a lot of pressure because of their situation in the league but also in the crowd – that told you enough about his strength of character.”
Nothing that’s happened since has contradicted the evidence either. But on reflection in an enlightening, first-person piece on website The Players Tribune, it’s clear Kane wasn’t where he wanted to be when City got their man at the end of August 2012 on a season-long loan – triggered by Clint Dempsey’s late transfer from Liverpool to Spurs.
Kane said: “I was hoping I had done enough (at Millwall) for Spurs to keep me around the following season. Unfortunately, they sent me back out on loan – and that was the beginning of a really tough time.”
The striker doesn’t use the words ‘Norwich City’ in that quote – but the inference is hard to ignore along with what he almost certainly carried with him when arriving in the Premier League at Carrow Road, when returning to Spurs for his months of injury rehabilitation, when suffering an embarrassing FA Cup exit to non-league Luton and when his City loan was cut short before he headed out to finish the season at Championship outfit Leicester.
“The lowest moment was when I was at Leicester, and I couldn’t get into the team,” continued Kane. “I remember sitting in my flat and having this terrible realisation that if I can’t play for Leicester in the Championship…how am I supposed to play for Spurs in the Premier League? That was the first time in my career the doubt crept in. It’s a tough thing, doubt.
“A few weeks later I stumbled on this documentary on NFL quarterback Tom Brady and it really struck a chord. Everyone was doubting Tom his whole life. They showed this picture of him being weighed by the scouts before the NFL draft, he’s got his shirt off and it’s so funny, because he just looks like a regular guy. One coach said he looks like he’s never even seen a weight room.
“He reminded me of me. People were always making the same assumptions about me – ‘he doesn’t look like a proper striker’. The film was genuinely inspiring.”
It wasn’t too long after that, the former Arsenal youngster – released by the Gunners at the age of eight – was putting Spurs’ arch rivals to the sword at White Hart Lane, on his way to breaking 100 top-flight goals. He had just turned 19 when he arrived at Norwich. He is now 24, as he leads England into the World Cup knockout stages.
“I remember walking round the pitch that day clapping to the fans and it felt like, I told you so,” added Kane. “It wasn’t just about Arsenal. It was about proving something to myself, and to my family — who believed in me every step of the way. Even when I was at Millwall and Norwich and Leicester, even when I was doubting I could make it at all.”
Suffice to say, Harry Kane has made it now – and in a small way Norwich City played its part.
But it’s what we’ve learned since England’s number nine took the football world by storm, that sheds a different light on what had looked a desperate, late loan bid back in August 2012.
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