Harry Kane Will Become England’s Record Goalscorer
Back in March 2021, we pondered whether Harry Kane would eventually become England men’s record goalscorer. Since then, the Three Lions’ captain has scored 16 goals in 18 games to move just three 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 back in November of last year, 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 moved one ahead of Bobby Charlton (49) on 50 goals, three 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 seven 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 45 goals in 54 caps. No player has ever scored more for a single manager in England men’s history.
In fact, those 45 goals are 28 more than any other England player during Southgate’s tenure as coach, ahead of Raheem Sterling’s 17. Of England’s 158 goals under Southgate, Kane’s 45 represent 28%, while with 11 additional assists, he’s been involved in 35% 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 last November, Kane’s record versus the “lesser” footballing nations comes into question.
True, only five of his 50 goals have come against teams ranked in the top 10 of the FIFA rankings at the time of the fixture (10%), 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 eight games against teams ranked in the top 15 of the FIFA rankings, and Kane’s scored four goals across 705 minutes on pitch in these fixtures, including his penalty against Germany in the UEFA Nations League last night.
50 – Harry Kane has scored his 50th goal for England, becoming just the second player to reach this milestone for the Three Lions after Wayne Rooney (53). Indeed, his 50 goals are as many as the rest of this current England squad combined. Composed. pic.twitter.com/vOTxZTcvED— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 7, 2022
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 back in November of last year, 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 against San Marino on November 15 2021, 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 across those four days in November meant that he ended 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 in Serravalle accelerated the current England captain past these tallies.
On the face of it, Kane has started slower for Kane, with two goals in four appearances (297 minutes) – but his record-breaking 2021 saw him score just twice in his opening six games that year.
With 50 goals in 71 appearances, Kane is on the way to breaking the England men’s goal record before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar this November. The Three Lions will face Italy (twice), Germany and Hungary in the UEFA Nations League before the end of September, with them likely to play at least one yet-to-be-determined warm-up game ahead of the tournament, which kicks off for England on November 21 against Iran in Doha.
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 71 caps, current record scorer Rooney had 28 goals while Charlton had netted 38 times by this stage of his England career.
Age is also on Harry Kane’s side. His goals last night came at 28 years, 314 days old – an age at which both Rooney (41 goals in 96 apps) and Charlton (40 goals in 74 apps) had scored fewer.
Gary Lineker had only played 43 games for England at the same age as Kane is now, 28 fewer than Kane, but had an impressive return of 29 goals at a rate of a strike every 117 minutes. That’s still higher than Kane’s current ratio of a goal every 111 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).
On the Hunt for Ronaldo’s Record?
Cristiano Ronaldo holds the record for the most international goals by a male player, with 117 goals in 188 appearances for Portugal. The Portuguese moved ahead of the only other male with at least 100 international goals – Iran’s Ali Daei with 109 goals in 148 games – when he scored twice against Republic of Ireland in Portugal’s European Qualifier in Faro-Loulé on September 1 2021, aged 36.
So what chance does Kane have of moving past 100 goals on the international stage and getting anywhere near Ronaldo’s record? Well, age isn’t on his side.
Kane’s 50th international goal last night came on his 71st cap with the Spurs’ striker aged 28 years and 314 days old – over three years older than Ronaldo was on his 71st cap in June 2010 (25 years, 115 days). Ronaldo had less than half the goal tally at this stage of his international career, however (22). His goal record took another two years to really accelerate, with 85 goals in 98 appearances since the start of the 2012 European Championship finals.
Ronaldo is currently on 188 international caps for Portugal, with Kane needing to play another 117 games for England to replicate this tally – this feels very unlikely given that only one male outfielder has ever won as many England caps as this in their entire career – Wayne Rooney (120).
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 ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, at which point it should be celebrated, not dismissed.
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Data viz by Jonny Whitmore