Harry Kane: How Tottenham forward hunted down Jimmy Greaves’ record

Harry Kane and Jimmy Greaves

On the site of the old White Hart Lane, under the dazzling glow of Tottenham Hotspur’s modern home, Spurs fans of a certain vintage still marvel with wide-eyed affection at tales of Jimmy Greaves’ goalscoring wizardry.

His was a scoring record that appeared untouchable, but now this generation has its own hero etched into lilywhite folklore – a one-season wonder turned England captain who has scaled the dizzy landmark set by the legendary Greaves.

Harry Kane’s career may so far not have yielded any silverware team but it has seen the forward hit the back of the net at a relentless rate since first breaking into the Spurs side under Tim Sherwood at the end of the 2013-14 season.

The 29-year-old’s 266 goals for Tottenham have come in 415 games. Greaves reached that figure in 379 Spurs appearances, but arrived in north London as one of the game’s most revered strikers on the back of a short – but still prolific – spell at AC Milan.

Greaves had already scored 124 times in 157 top-flight games for Chelsea before his short-lived Italian experiment, and picked up where he left off for Bill Nicholson’s double-winning Tottenham side with a hat-trick on his debut after completing a £99,000 move from the San Siro.

If Greaves’ goalscoring legacy is one of a forward blessed with outstanding natural talent, Kane’s will be the reward of perseverance, resilience and graft.

Rejected by Arsenal and Watford as a youngster, Kane “wasn’t even on the podium” when he first joined Spurs, never mind being one of his age group’s “gold medal” talents, according to former Tottenham youth-team coach Alex Inglethorpe.

“He had a lovely technique – an ability to pass and receive and shoot – but if there was something that endeared him to you it was that he was very, very low maintenance,” added Inglethorpe.

“We just had to keep giving him opportunities to get good at what he needed – to get better at heading, get better on his left side. That obsession to improve is undoubtedly his greatest strength.”

Having earned his Spurs debut in a Europa League qualifier against Hearts in 2011, the gangly youth product – still growing into the body of the elite athlete he would become – won a penalty only to see it saved.

He got off the mark in a Tottenham shirt in the same competition against Shamrock Rovers a few months later, but humbling yet educational loan spells at Millwall, Norwich and Leicester all followed before Kane seized his big break under Sherwood.

Former Spurs striker Les Ferdinand, who worked alongside Sherwood with the club’s under-21s, likened Kane’s movement to Teddy Sheringham and said he struck the ball like Alan Shearer, while Sherwood saw a player outperforming then-club record signing Roberto Soldado in training.

“Harry wanted to get to the top, and nothing was going to stop him achieving that because of the ability, desire and mentality he possesses,” said Sherwood.

“He needed to work on sharpening his feet up around the box, so we spent a lot of time doing sessions where he had to move his feet a little bit quicker, open the space and shoot off both sides.

“But he also had that knack of being aware of players around him, and the intelligence to slide people in. He could see a pass and he could execute it.”

Leicester City 19
Everton 15
arsenal 14
Southampton 11
West Ham 11

When Mauricio Pochettino arrived that summer, however, he felt Kane was not ready for first-team football, instead reverting to Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor.

After not making the bench against West Brom, Kane went to see the Argentine and his coaching staff and was met by reams of video analysis showing the 20-year-old where he needed to improve to earn the new boss’ trust.

By November, after a hat-trick against Asteras Tripoli – and a stint in goal – Pochettino placed his faith in Kane and the young forward responded by scoring a free-kick the manager credits with “saving” his career and allowing him time to implement his project at Tottenham.

The substitute’s 90th-minute deflected winner at Aston Villa was the first of 21 Premier League goals for Kane that season that also included iconic doubles against Chelsea and Arsenal, scoring 31 times in all competitions on his way to being voted the PFA Young Player of the Year.

The goals have flowed ever since. Three Premier League Golden Boots, to complement the one he won at the 2018 World Cup with England, and a five-time entrant in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year.

“Harry Kane is a special player in the history of the club,” said Jose Mourinho while Tottenham manager. “He will beat every possible record.”

Harry Kane's record goal
Kane’s Tottenham record includes 199 Premier League goals and 21 scored in the Champions League

He has scored all sorts of goals for Spurs. Most, 164, have come with his right foot but there have been 51 off the forward’s weaker side, 49 with his head and even two classified as “other”.

Some 235 were scored inside the box, including 39 penalties, and 31 outside it, but that effort against Villa during Pochettino’s reign remains the only free-kick.

The local boy-done-good – born in Leytonstone just 20 minutes from Greaves – has even managed to ride out the storm created by his previous angling for a transfer to Manchester City, with his relentless thirst for goals healing the wounds of Spurs fans who still proudly label Kane “one of our own”.

“Just a one-season wonder,” the away end chanted at Craven Cottage as Kane moved alongside Greaves with a reliably clinical winner against Fulham. Always the talisman, it was his 199th Premier League goal on his 300th appearance in the competition for Spurs.

“To get the goal and equal the record was a nice feeling,” Kane told BBC Sport in typically understated fashion, thinking instead about another chance he saw saved that would have broken it.

Former Spurs striker Gary Lineker was more effusive with his praise:external-link “What an incredible achievement for Harry Kane to equal the great Jimmy Greaves as all-time top scorer for Tottenham. And, yes, before you start, I know he’s not won anything. Also, that fact doesn’t make him any the less of a footballer.”

Greaves was a different forward to Kane – he was quick, elegant, could dribble and would score sublime solo efforts. His friend and author, Norman Giller, called him “Messi with bells on”external-link – but both strikers redefined their position in their own right. Greaves as the modern English forward of his time, Kane as a goalscorer who is also his side’s chief creator, winning the Premier League Playmaker of the Season prize in 2020-21 for his 14 assists.

“At the end of his career, he’ll go down as Tottenham’s greatest ever player,” lauded former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports.

Having equaled Greaves’ Tottenham record, Kane is now just one shy of joining Shearer and Wayne Rooney in the Premier League’s 200-goal club and will have his sights set on toppling Shearer’s landmark in the competition of 260 goals.

Even if that fabled figure is reached, Greaves’ record as the all-time leading scorer in the English top flight will surely remain elusive – an incredible 357 goals achieved during spells with Chelsea, Tottenham and West Ham – but you can bet Kane will never stop chasing it.

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