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Meeting Beckham Spurred Me on to Glory, Says Harry Kane

Published: 01st March 2015 09:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st March 2015 09:35 AM   |  A+A-

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"I was a little skinhead," says Harry Kane. He is discussing a photograph of himself as a schoolboy, in year seven, aged 11.

No, not those photos of Kane in an Arsenal shirt, taken a year earlier, the ones that have done the rounds since he exploded on the scene - not least in scoring both goals as Tottenham Hotspur recently came from behind to beat their north London rivals 2-1 - but an image that became a motivation for the Spurs striker.

There he is, back in 2005, grinning away with David Beckham's left arm draped across his shoulder at the opening of Beckham's football academy - subsequently closed - in Greenwich, south-east London.

"Beckham was a great inspiration to me growing up," Kane says. "He was a player who I adored and I went to the same school [Chingford Foundation School] as him and he launched his academy at the O2 [Arena]. I got to meet him there. Some of you may have seen the pictures. It was a great moment. It made it more special for me to become a footballer and maybe meet him again one day and be able to talk to him about the game."

That day came. Beckham, in January 2011, pitched up at Spurs Lodge, the club's old training ground in Chigwell, to keep fit ahead of the Major League Soccer season with Los Angeles Galaxy. "Then I did get to meet him when he came to train at Spurs a few years back," Kane says. "He was obviously a world-class player who has done a lot for the game and a lot for the country. So he was a big inspiration for me."

Did Kane seek out any words of advice? "I spoke to him. And just having that little chat with him was enough for me, just to be talking to him. He was great in training when he came here. He was a true professional. Obviously, he was keeping fit and he trained to a high standard. Hopefully, I will be able to meet him again one day and talk to him again about things."

Right now, it is Beckham who is talking about Kane. But then, ahead of today's Capital One Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley Stadium, everyone is. The former England captain has already backed the forward for a full international call-up and it is a given that Kane will be in Roy Hodgson's senior squad when it is announced this month.

The striker is ready. "Definitely," he says. "It is a progression. I have played at every other level for England and I am having a good season."

A good season? That is some understatement - as Beckham has picked up on. "He's having a stunning year," the former midfielder said.

And Kane is. A truly stunning year; a breakthrough campaign in which he has scored 24 goals in 37 matches including 14 in the Premier League - having started the season behind Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado in the pecking order.

"I'm just enjoying it at the moment, I'm full of confidence and just want to be out there playing," Kane says. "Sometimes you need a player to step up when it matters but it's about the team and as a team we've managed to play well in the big games - Chelsea [beaten 5-3 in the league], Arsenal. Tough games. But we have probably managed to play the best games we've played all season. So, as a team, we are really confident playing the bigger teams now."

Kane is still only 21 but he is no overnight sensation. Indeed, he was released by Arsenal, then Watford, and also by Spurs themselves, who initially let him go after a trial, before, finally, putting their faith in him. But it was not easy.

"I think I had setbacks but I still always had that belief that I was going to play for Tottenham Hotspur," Kane says. "Even when I went out on loan to clubs, it was always to come back and be a Spurs player. I had good loans at Orient and Millwall and I had probably not so good loans at Norwich and Leicester.

"At Norwich, I was injured and then I went to Leicester and I found myself on the bench. But I still used that to my advantage as an experience - I had to do that here at Spurs for a while, be on the bench and wait for my chance. It's definitely something that's helped me with my game."

Playing for Spurs means everything to Kane. An Essex boy, born in Walthamstow, just five miles from White Hart Lane, he grew up a Tottenham supporter and takes great pride in that song. "Harry Kane, he's one of our own," the Spurs fans gleefully sing. Kane's reaction to scoring against Arsenal said it all: "Got to love a north London derby, eh? Come on!" he shouted down a television camera as he left the pitch. But what of those old photographs of him in Arsenal shirts that keep emerging in a silly, misguided attempt to cause embarrassment?

"In a way, it was a compliment that those pictures came out because if I hadn't scored, they would never have come out," Kane says. "So, the fact that I scored the winner - I don't know what Arsenal fans think of me. That was a very special day for me and one I won't forget. I remember my dad [Pat] telling me I had been released by Arsenal. I wasn't too downhearted about it. He said I'd play for a local side, Ridgeway Rovers. I just wanted to play football, so I played for them and eventually got picked up by Spurs and have been here ever since."

Ridgeway Rovers have another famous old boy - and not just Kane's Spurs team-mate Andros Townsend. Again there is a Beckham connection because the club is where he also started his career. "I was too young to think about [leaving Arsenal being a big deal]," Kane says. "Once or twice a week after school I'd go there and play football."

Kane is speaking after talking to a group of teenagers who are being given academy-standard coaching alongside their college studies. "It helps," he says when asked whether being a local boy could be an inspiration.

"When you see a player that has come through the ranks make it all the way like Ledley King and a couple of us - Ryan Mason, Andros Townsend - it definitely helps and it gives them that ambition, that drive to do the same."

However, despite that opportunity, is it becoming harder for players to do just that given the riches of the Premier League, the clamour for big names? "I think it is," Kane says. "There's a lot of money in football nowadays and you always see?...?if a team hasn't got an answer, they just go and buy someone and they think that's the answer. That's not always the case. We've got great players here and with the likes of me, Ryan, Andros and Nabil [Bentaleb] we've got young players who have shown that you don't always have to buy players.

"There are players who are home grown and in your academy that are good enough. It's just whether or not they get the chance, and maybe it's just that enough young players coming through don't get a chance on the big stage. That's a big thing. But fortunately for us, we got that chance and we were able to take it."

Such has been Kane's progress that he signed a new long-term contract last month - having only signed another last August - committing his future to Spurs until 2020. Does he envisage the possibility of being a one-club man? "Yes. It's something I have said I would love to do. If I'm at Tottenham in 10 years' time, still playing regularly, then I will be very proud and very honoured. I love the club. They've given me a base, growing up as a kid.

"I love playing here, I'm enjoying every minute and hopefully I can continue that for seasons to come."

It is a cliche but Kane is regarded at Spurs as a player who has to be dragged off the training ground such is his desire for self?improvement. He will practise until his manager, Mauricio Pochettino, orders him in.

"I think self-belief is a massive thing in football," Kane says. "If you don't believe in yourself, not many others will. Work hard and believe in yourself, and I think you'll go as far as your body will take you."

It is a telling comment. Pochettino has pushed his players. He has pushed their bodies. Kane is leaner, fitter, stronger, more defined than previously. "I think as I've got older and I've got more developed - I'm a late birth [July] and I was a late developer in my age group - and even this year things have developed in terms of muscles," Kane says.

However, it is not just his body developing naturally. There is also the exacting regime demanded by Pochettino. "I've worked in the gym with the new manager and the new staff to help me get stronger and fitter and gain that extra yard of pace," Kane says.

"I can see in my game that it's definitely helping this season. It's given me a lot of confidence and it's something that I will keep working on to get that little bit quicker or that little bit stronger because I think that's what you have got to do to become a top, top player.

"Pre-season was by far the toughest I've had under any manager - a lot of double sessions, a lot of work, running after training - it was a lot of what we've done before, running, fitness, ball work, running with the ball and gym work but just of a higher magnitude and more of it. A lot of the time we weren't getting home until 7pm, 8pm, because it was double sessions. It was tiring. But he [Pochettino] explained why we had to do it and what we were doing it for and it's paid off now.

"I think, as the season has gone on, we've got fitter and fitter and better and better and we're feeling good. You can see that towards the end of games we're coming into our stride, where maybe some teams are falling off and maybe that's given us confidence."

Spurs have scored a lot of late goals - earning 13 points in the league with goals scored after the 85th minute - although none was as late as Kane's 96th equaliser against West Ham United last Sunday.

"I think the big thing for us is that even if we go a goal behind I think teams know we're not going to go away easily," Kane says. "We know we can come back into the game. Sunday was a big example of that: 2-0 down and 10 minutes to go and we managed to come back and show our character and I think that's a great advantage - we never give up."

Today is Spurs' first cup final since winning the League Cup - then the Carling Cup - back in 2008 when they beat Chelsea 2-1. "I was there as a fan, with the family and that was a great day out," Kane says.

"To see them lift the trophy and all the fans stay behind and stay with them is something I've been thinking of leading up to this game on Sunday. And, if I'm up there lifting the trophy, it would be something very special."

Harry Kane was speaking at a Tottenham Hotspur Foundation event highlighting the Education and Football Development Centre programme.



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