By Thomas Strong
Last Updated: 28th June 2018
In the latest of exclusive interview with William Hill, Sam Allardyce heaps praises on Harry Kane’s performance, stating that nobody is doubting Kane’s World Cup credentials anymore.
It won’t surprise you to learn that Sam Allardyce was absolutely delighted with England’s late grabbing of the three points against Tunisia last Monday. He was even more pleased however with who popped up with the winner.
“They got their reward right at the end of the game and that was well deserved. We have to look at the goals too, that were thankfully scored by Harry Kane. There has been a question mark about Harry’s effectiveness in scoring goals in World Cup games so he has now put that to bed. He will get a lot of confidence from that.”
“Now he’s scored the two goals he’s on his way and on the up. His play outside of the box is fine, we know that, but scoring goals is what England needs and what Harry Kane needs. It’s important though that Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy all make a contribution too at some stage.”
More on that very shortly, but staying with the Three Lions captain, his close-range double in Volgograd now makes it 15 international goals from just 25 appearances. With such a prolific return could the Spurs striker surpass Wayne Rooney and break the England goal-scoring record?
“That is a possibility as long as he doesn’t suffer any serious injuries or drastic loss of form. Harry is heading in that direction and it would be one hell of a thing to break Wayne’s record. He’s on track but I don’t think that’s on his mind at the moment. Rather, he wants to be one of the leading goal-scorers in the World Cup.”
It’s an ambition that Kane has been extremely candid about, even stating after Ronaldo’s opening game hat-trick that he had some catching up to do in order to secure the Golden Boot. Yet it was also an intention that received some scorn on Twitter because frankly us English don’t respond well to supreme self-confidence. On hearing about this Big Sam is not amused.
“Why would you not want your England centre-forward to say that? All these guys on social media are…being rather silly shall we say. It is ridiculous to criticise Harry Kane for saying he wants to win the Golden Boot. That’s what he’s there for. That’s what we want from him. That’s what all England fans want. All the social media guys should be praising him for being so positive.”
If only such belief and positivity was shared by Kane’s fellow attackers against Tunisia but instead a string of missed opportunities only frustrated the watching nation. After pinpointing their wastefulness as his biggest concern Allardyce is certain his successor to the England hot-seat, Gareth Southgate, will also be privately worried.
“All three on the front-line – Jesse Lingard, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling – didn’t cover themselves in a great deal of glory in front of goal. The rest of their game though was fine. They need to do better in the final third and show they can do in the final third for England what they’ve showed throughout an entire season for their clubs in the Premier League. That is Gareth’s dilemma now – you’ve got these top performers in the Premier League but can they do it in the England team? He has to decide whether to make a change against Panama or give them another chance.”
Not that rotation is preferred by the highly experienced coach ahead of England vs Panama – a game that is very winnable on paper but still needs the job completing and completed well.
“We need to win this game and not dabble with the squad too much. We don’t want to risk not winning. Gareth may think entirely differently to me and have so much faith in his squad that he makes seven or eight changes but for me make sure you play your strongest side to win it then make your substitutions. Then if you want to make changes do it against Belgium because you’ve qualified to the next round and whichever way you qualify – first or second – the route doesn’t look too bad.”
Even so some fresh faces are expected this Sunday afternoon while a debate continues as to whether Southgate will revert to a back four to better break down the World Cup minnows.
“He’s definitely going to change the team but whether he changes the system is another question. I don’t know if you can do both at the same time. This is an observation from me as a manger and not a criticism but the back end of the Tunisia game when it was 1-1 I didn’t think there was any need for three at the back anymore because Tunisia were offering nothing. So maybe he could have pulled one off and brought on an extra striker or attacking midfield player. At the end of the day though they still won the game.”
As to who makes up that back three it’s unlikely to matter to a huge extent if it’s Harry Maguire, Gary Cahill, or Eric Dier, who line up against a team expected to defend for their lives and hit on the break. Looking further ahead to England’s third and last group challenge v Belgium however the personnel issue at the back becomes a touch more pressing.
“It looks like the defensive side of England is pretty solid but we might have to wait for the Belgium game for that side of it to be tested. That’s when I think we’ll see Gary Cahill in the team. He’s one of the best defenders in the England side, if not the best, and that might be a key factor with England looking to be more defensively minded when out of possession against such a talented, talented Belgium team, particularly going forward.”
And when in possession we always have Harry Kane to terrorise opposition goalkeepers and save our bacon. When he is not being hauled to the ground at corners of course.
Allardyce has long been an advocate for video assisted refereeing but the controversial dismissal of two clear penalty decisions in England’s opening game brought renewed criticism of its introduction. After being as perplexed as the rest of us at the oversights are there now any doubts to its virtues?
“Don’t forget that it’s not VAR that’s the problem but the referees who are looking at it. That then becomes human error rather than system error and for me that comes down to the referees again being poor. Firstly the referees on the pitch aren’t asking for enough clarifications and also the referees doing the VAR are not intervening and saying, ‘I think you need to have a look at this’. That’s a real problem.”
Let’s all hope that it’s not a problem that arises in anymore England games and talking of which, after tipping France to win this summer’s World Cup, how far does he believe this young, Kane-led side can go in the tournament?
“Based on getting through this group and thereafter at least the quarter finals.“
From there who knows? Not even Big Sam can answer that one.