Harry Kane: ‘Complete forward’ can push England scoring record far into the distance

Harry Kane

Harry Kane could have been forgiven for not just having history on his mind as he stared down Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma before the moment that re-wrote England’s record books.

The last time the Three Lions captain found himself standing over the penalty spot for his country it resulted in one of the most agonising moments of his career, the late miss in the World Cup quarter-final loss against France in Qatar.

Instead, inside the ramshackle but atmospheric Neopolitan stadium – named after the city’s great icon Diego Armando Maradona – Kane demonstrated the single-minded focus and expertise that now makes him England’s greatest goalscorer.

In only his 81st England game, he surpassed Wayne Rooney’s previous record with his 54th goal as he stepped up and sent Donnarumma the wrong way with a perfect right-foot penalty – his 18th success from the spot for his country.

Perhaps it was written in the stars that Kane would break the record in this manner, having missed the chance to do it in similar circumstances amid the hothouse of that World Cup tie 103 days ago.

But this was a fully deserved moment for the 29-year-old Tottenham Hotspur forward, who has served England with such distinction since 2015.

Redemption might be too strong a word, but the smile that lit up Kane’s face as he wheeled away to the corner in joyous celebration before being engulfed by team-mates was a world away from the misery he suffered at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.

Harry Kane is consoled after missing a penalty against France at last year's World Cup

Such is Kane’s selflessness that his first contribution to England’s 2-1 win against Italy, that gave them the start manager Gareth Southgate wanted to their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, was racing back to the edge of his own penalty area to halt an Italian attack.

This night in southern Italy was a crowning moment for Kane who, in an indifferent season for his club, also became Tottenham’s all-time record goalscorer and now holds the same title for England.

Achieving these two landmarks are a simple measure of what marks him down as a world-class striker.

Kane’s sky-high consistency makes him a worthy holder of the accolade, starting as he meant to go on with a goal 79 seconds into his debut against Lithuania at Wembley in March 2015.

There will always be the debate about who is England’s finest striker, with greats like Sir Bobby Charlton, Jimmy Greaves, Gary Lineker and Rooney in the mix, but this was a moment for Kane to get the huge credit he has deserved.

This was a night for him to stand alone in the spotlight.

Player Goals Games
Harry Kane (2015-present) 54 81
Wayne Rooney (2003-2018) 53 120
Bobby Charlton (1958-1970) 49 106
Gary Lineker (1984-1992) 48 80
Jimmy Greaves (1959-1967) 44 57
Michael Owen (1998-2008) 40 89

The critics who slant their arguments to supporting others will always suggest Kane has had the opportunity to, say, score four easy goals in a 10-0 win against San Marino, as if there should be a silent asterisk against his name at the top of the list.


The heartfelt congratulations from Rooney and Lineker was an accurate reflection of the respect in which Kane is held throughout the game, both as a striker and inspirational leader of this England team – a personality so hugely admired by his colleagues.

As at club level, the trophy is missing. He will look back with regret on the high farce of England’s Euro 2016 campaign, when a brainwave with merit, known only to manager Roy Hodgson, had him taking corners amid the humiliation of the last-16 exit to Iceland.

And then there was the heartache of the World Cup semi-final loss to Croatia in Russia in 2018, the Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy at Wembley and the personal heartache of that France game in Qatar.

What should be remembered after this night in Naples is England have been privileged to have such an outstanding striker at their disposal, someone who has every right to stand in the company of those he overtook in the 44th minute of their first win against Italy in Italy since 1961.

Kane, it is right to point out, is far more than just a striker. He is the complete forward. He can link play from all parts, has a prodigious work-rate and offered so much more than goals in his international career.

And, barring injuries or some unforeseen loss of form, Kane will have power to add over coming years to push his record far into the distance and away from those who may have their sights on surpassing him.

Such are the high standards he maintains, there is no reason why Kane cannot end his England career with a total that will take an awful lot of beating – and a record that will need a truly great striker to overtake it.

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