Harry Kane Will Become England’s Record Scorer
Back in March, we pondered whether Harry Kane would eventually become England’s leading men’s scorer. Since then, the England captain has scored 15 goals in 15 games to move just five off Wayne Rooney’s record. Barring something unforeseen, he’s going to break the scoring record – it’s just a matter of when.
Harry Kane reportedly begged Gareth Southgate for a start in England’s final World Cup qualifier against San Marino, and you can understand why. The international minnows had conceded 38 goals in nine games during this qualification campaign ahead of the Three Lions’ trip, and Kane smelt blood.
Kane’s enthusiasm to start was warranted, as within 42 minutes of the match in Serravalle he’d helped himself to four goals. His only gripe will be that Gareth Southgate removed him from action after 62 minutes to deny him the chance to instantly move joint-second with Bobby Charlton on 49 goals. As it is, he’s now level in third with Gary Lineker on 48 goals, one off Charlton and five away from Wayne Rooney’s record tally for the England men’s team (53). Kane may have been set back a goal or two, but the record is coming.
Back to the Start
Kane’s start to his senior England international career couldn’t have gone much better – scoring just 79 seconds into his debut against Lithuania in March 2015. That game saw him replace Rooney on the pitch, a substitution that now seems to hold greater significance six years on.
In records dating to 1872, Kane is one of only six players to score within his first two minutes of England action, and the most recent before Kane was Gerry Hitchens in 1961. Following such a rapid start to his international career, the Spurs striker went on to add goals in his third and fourth caps for the Three Lions, but by the end of a disappointing exit in Euro 2016 to Iceland, Kane’s international pedigree was beginning to be questioned with just five goals in 17 appearances and he was given a new role as senior corner taker in Roy Hodgson’s side.
Following a goalless 82-minute appearance in Slovakia under Sam Allardyce (remember when this happened?), the appointment of Gareth Southgate as England boss led to a rapid acceleration in Kane’s goalscoring for his country. Since Southgate came in, Kane’s scored 43 goals in 50 caps. No player has ever scored more for a single manager in England men’s history.
In fact, those 43 goals are 27 more than any other England player during Southgate’s tenure as coach, ahead of Raheem Sterling’s 16. Of England’s 152 goals under Southgate, Kane’s 43 represent 28%, while with 11 additional assists, he’s been involved in 36% of the Three Lions’ goals in all competitions since Southgate’s first game versus Malta in October 2016.
Naturally, following seven goals in successive appearances against Albania and San Marino, Kane’s record versus the “lesser” footballing nations comes into question.
True, only five of his 48 goals have come against teams ranked in the top 10 of the FIFA rankings at the time of the fixture, with three of those coming in friendlies. He’s also scored more goals against San Marino (five) than he has against any other opponent in his England career, but that shouldn’t take the gloss off any eventual goal record he breaks for the Three Lions.
Important goals at Euro 2020 against 12th-ranked Germany and 10th-ranked Denmark were his first goals against teams in the top 15 of the FIFA Rankings since a winner against Croatia in the UEFA Nations League in November 2018. However, since that Croatia win, England have played just six games against teams ranked in the top 15 of the FIFA rankings, and Kane’s scored two goals across 526 minutes on pitch in these fixtures.
3 – @HKane scored two hat-tricks just three days apart for England, a new record for a European player in World Cup/EURO qualifying, previously held by Raúl for Spain (4 days in March 1999). Dynamo. pic.twitter.com/vkLs8w8j9H— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 16, 2021
Against the English Greats
Kane scored the fourth and fifth England senior hat-tricks of his career across four days in those two meetings with Albania and San Marino, an impressive feat considering only two players had previously scored back-to-back hat-tricks for England.
Kane joined Vivian Woodward (1909), Dixie Dean (1927) and Tommy Taylor (1957) in scoring hat-tricks in successive appearances, while he drew level with Gary Lineker on five hat-tricks overall for England – only Jimmy Greaves (six) has more for the men’s senior team.
With four goals in Serravalle last night, he also became the first England player to score four times in a single appearance since Ian Wright in 1993 – also against San Marino. In fact, the previous occasion of a player scoring four goals for England before Wright also came in a match against the Sammarinese, with David Platt’s four goals 10 months prior in the 1994 World Cup qualifiers.
Kane’s seven-goal haul between Friday and Monday meant that he ends 2021 with 16 goals for England, breaking another record. In 2019, he equalled the feats of Dixie Dean in 1927 and George Hilsdon in 1908 by scoring 12 times in a calendar year, but his four goals last night accelerated the current England captain past these tallies.
With 48 goals in 67 appearances, Kane is well on the way to breaking the England men’s goal record before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The Three Lions will face two yet-to-be-determined opponents in March next year, before a busy summer schedule of UEFA Nations League action.
Looking at the trajectory of Kane’s England goals by appearances, he’s well ahead of both Bobby Charlton and Wayne Rooney by this stage of his international career.
After 67 caps, current record scorer Rooney had 26 goals while Charlton had netted 37 times by this stage of his England career.
Age is also on Harry Kane’s side. His goals last night came at 28 years, 110 days old – an age at which both Rooney (38 goals in 88 apps) and Charlton (35 goals in 62 apps) had scored fewer.
Gary Lineker had only played 39 games for England at the same age as Kane is now, 28 fewer than Kane, but had an impressive return of 26 goals at a rate of a strike every 117 minutes. That’s still higher than Kane’s current ratio of 109 minutes for the Three Lions.
The late Jimmy Greaves deserves a mention here, too. He made his final England appearance in May 1967 at just 27 years, 96 days old, ending his senior international career with 44 goals in 57 apps and a minutes-per-goal ratio the same as Lineker’s (117).
Being a top international goalscorer inevitably means you will score more goals against so-called minnows than the crème de la crème of the international scene – it shouldn’t put a dampener on any records set.
Harry Kane will break the England men’s goalscoring record, probably doing so in 2022, at which point it should be celebrated, not dismissed.
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Data viz by Jonny Whitmore