Harry Kane has admitted for the first time that his turbulent summer took a toll on him mentally. The England captain, who also suffered physically from having virtually no pre-season at Tottenham, is looking forward to Friday night’s World Cup qualifier against Albania at Wembley.
The Football Association expects a crowd of about 80,000 – with general admission tickets sold out – and England need a performance after misfiring in the 1-1 home draw with Hungary last month. The result followed the frittering away of two points in another 1-1 draw, away to Poland in September.
Kane was at his most interesting when he opened up about the period that began with the devastation of losing the Euro 2020 final to Italy on penalties at Wembley on 11 July. He was immediately involved in a high-profile transfer saga in which he tried and failed to drive through a move to Manchester City.
The 28-year-old reported for team training at Spurs only on 13 August – two days before his club kicked off their Premier League campaign – and it has been a struggle for him and them so far. Kane has had more club managers (two) than league goals (one), with Antonio Conte having replaced the sacked Nuno Espírito Santo. But Kane says he now feels in a good place, having leaned on the support of family and close friends.
“A lot people talk about [the impact] physically, what tournaments take out of you and pre-seasons and going straight back into a season, but mentally, as players, you go through a lot as well,” he said. “You go through the highs and lows of a major tournament, coming so close to a dream and it being taken away from you in such a quick moment, and then it was my first summer of transfer speculation, having to deal with those situations. So, of course, it takes a toll mentally.”
Kane said that “losing a European final with your country at Wembley will stay with me probably for the rest of my career … You never really get over those things unless we hopefully go and win some major tournaments.” And it was with good reason that he described the short turnaround to the new domestic season as a “whirlwind”.
He said: “You come off the back of a tournament where you’re physically tired, you’re mentally tired and all of a sudden the Premier League has pretty much started and you’re just straight back into it. We’ve had to deal with that as players more and more so we’ve got a little bit more used to it but it’s never easy. It’s never easy just to switch that mode back on and start firing on all cylinders again. Your body needs time to respond physically and mentally.”
Kane was asked to explain the delay in his return for pre-season duty with Spurs. The club indicated at the time that they expected him back on 2 August. “That’s between me and the club,” he replied. “We’ve had discussions about it internally and that’s the way it will stay.”
Kane was more expansive when discussing the role that his inner circle, including his elder brother, Charlie, who is his agent, had played in helping him to retain his trademark focus. Charlie was criticised for an exit strategy that put noses out of joint and did not achieve its goal.
“Whatever the circumstance, whenever there is stuff being written about your family, it’s always maybe a little bit difficult to take, especially when it’s stuff that’s negative,” Kane said. “In the summer there was a lot of stuff about my brother being my agent. That’s where we stick together. I know what he does for me as an agent, I know what he does for me as a brother and that’s all that matters. The rest is just noise.
“When things are difficult, it’s important that you talk about it and not just hide it and suck it up. But it’s important that you have people around you that you can trust to do that. That’s what I’ve got.
“I’ve always tried to deal with things in this way. Good or bad – just open up. Overall, I feel like mentally I am in a good place and I’m really ready to go over this tough period in the winter.”
Kane had a poor game against Hungary at Wembley, although he was hardly alone in that regard, and he was entitled to point out it was the first time since September 2017 that he had failed to score in an England qualifier – a run that took in 15 games.
“When you don’t reach the standards you need to reach, it does wake everyone up a little bit,” Kane said. “Now it’s about turning it around and responding to that game.”