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blunt force England's lethal weapon Harry Kane has been decommissioned and transformed into a soup spoon


England captain Harry Kane is yet to make an impact at Euro 2020

England captain Harry Kane is yet to make an impact at Euro 2020

England captain Harry Kane is yet to make an impact at Euro 2020

WHO knows what shadows are crossing Harry Kane’s life as England stroll yet again along the edge of the volcano?

At Euro 2020, Kane has more resembled a player on the brink of the international junkyard than a newly crowned Premier League Golden Boot, one with the game-changing sorcery to seduce Manchester’s twin titans into waiving competing £200m cheques in front of Daniel Levy.

England’s captain appears distracted, pedestrian, adrift in a positional no-man’s land: It is as if overnight a lethal weapon – Kane led the Premier League in both goals and assists in 2020/21 – has been decommissioned and transformed into a soup spoon or a nail clippers.

Careworn and hopeless, he has aged noticeably over the last week, the years rolling rapidly by like numbers on a petrol pump gauge – 27, 28 … 45, 46 – rendering one of the world’s great strikers an Antique Roadshow exhibit.

His manager famously immortalised his Euro ’96 penalty miss by starring in a Pizza Hut commercial. Kane has looked sufficiently debilitated and immobile against Croatia and Scotland to lead a Zimmer frame advertising campaign.

As he wanders far from the danger area, inexplicably popping up behind Declan Rice or next to Tyrone Mings, it feels like the Three Lions’ Carlos the Jackal has reimagined a life where he no longer fires killshots, but instead earns a modest living as a Surrey traffic warden or a East Anglian lollipop lady.

Maybe the most illuminating statistic of a game that brought a bombardment of them was that Kane touched the ball in the Scottish penalty area just once in the opening 45 minutes of Friday’s fall from grace.


Harry Kane is substituted by England boss Gareth Southgate

Harry Kane is substituted by England boss Gareth Southgate

Harry Kane is substituted by England boss Gareth Southgate

Equally revealing of England’s torpor was that Tartan journeyman Che Adams got off more shots (five) in 90 minutes than England’s entire vaunted, £500m-valued front three have managed on target in two full games (three).

Gareth Southgate, with an abundance of the most thrilling talent money can buy at his disposal, finds himself under biting pressure to locate an escape route from the maze into which his team have stumbled.

It is damning of his coaching and vision that England lacked Scotland’s tactical conviction, with roosting chickens rather than football looking infinitely more likely to be coming home in the coming days.

That hopelessly conservative double pivot of Rice and Kalvin Phillips reveals that Southgate dreams in monochrome.

Gareth is the sort of guy who cautiously boards his windows when the Met Office forecasts so much as a gentle breeze.

To be fair, England have not conceded a goal in this tournament and have garnered four points from a possible six, but they look less like potential champions than an ill-thought out mess sleepwalking toward their doom.

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France, Portugal and a reborn Holland are among potential last 16 opponents smelling Lionheart blood.

The philosophical handcuffs in which Southgate shackles England has many wide-reaching implications.

Despite having home advantage and a bewildering array of talent his fallow combinations have reaped a meagre harvest of just one goal in three hours.

Over the same period, Italy netted six times, Belgium and the Dutch five.

On Friday, England’s midfield was given a humiliating lesson in dynamic, cerebral playmaking by Billy Gilmour, a bairn who exited his teenage years on the day the festival began and who has appeared in just 11 Premier League games for Chelsea.

Of England’s more creative players, Jadon Sancho has yet to be removed from his wrapping, Phil Foden seems unsure of his role, while Jack Grealish (right) hardly had time to crash a car in the few minutes joyride he was permitted on Friday.

Southgate leaves the magic wands that have been gifted to him to gather dust and turns instead to the bludgeon.

And then, most acutely threatening to cut short his days in England’s dugout, there is the Kane conundrum.


Jack Grealish has been given little time to show his talent

Jack Grealish has been given little time to show his talent

Jack Grealish has been given little time to show his talent

A player who no longer wishes to wear the white of Tottenham looks uncomfortable in the same milk-coloured uniform of his country.

It could be a fitness issue, concerns over his club future, a lack of quality service or that confounding new-found desire to split his working day between the penalty box and centre circle.

But the best of Kane, that brilliant sense of where to be at the vital hour, has flown away.

On Friday, he had just seven completed passes before Southgate called him ashore for the second time in a week.

The manager’s future might hinge on Interpol issuing an urgent appeal for information on the whereabouts of the old, sure-footed Kane before Tuesday’s final – and significant – group match against the Czechs.

Southgate has spent the entirety of his tenure constructing a team on the certain foundations the Spurs striker’s goals provide.

Kane’s serrated edge got England to within an extra-time setback of a World Cup final; he is their go-to guy, their Ronaldo.

If Southgate now dares to relegate him to the margins of the Euro 2020 photograph, he undoes five years of preparation.

It would be like studying for French right through the Leaving Cert cycle and then on the morning of the exam saying au revoir to all that groundwork and taking the German paper instead.

And yet the clamour grows; the very fact the captain has been withdrawn with both games in the balance indicates he is no longer considered untouchable.

Still, it would be a seismic shock if he was benched against the Czech Republic

Maybe Kane will erupt on Tuesday, find again the richness of form that has already seen him overtake Shearer, Hurst, Finney and Lofthouse on England’s roll call of all-time most prolific goal-scorers.

But nothing in his body language over the past week supports such an optimistic thesis.

And so, Southgate, who for 32 straight games has made changes to his starting line-up, must summon some response to a dilemma that threatens to define his days as a nation’s leader.

If his 33rd altered team-sheet is to evict Kane, the question is whether will he be stepping away from the volcano that threatens to engulf England?

Or will he be leaping headfirst into its bubbling mouth?

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