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Kane is in need of time

Harry up to 'Roy of the Rovers' job

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KANE IS ABLE: Harry Kane in action during the Paddy Power Golf Shootout at the
Centurion Club, St Albans last Friday. Photo: Dan Jones Images Paddy Power/PA Wire

KANE IS ABLE: Harry Kane in action during the Paddy Power Golf Shootout at the Centurion Club, St Albans last Friday. Photo: Dan Jones Images Paddy Power/PA Wire

PA

KANE IS ABLE: Harry Kane in action during the Paddy Power Golf Shootout at the Centurion Club, St Albans last Friday. Photo: Dan Jones Images Paddy Power/PA Wire

It will not be until that first game back, the first stretch, the first sprint and the first view of Harry Kane at 80 minutes that we know whether he might be able to inspire Tottenham Hotspur, against the odds, to grab a place in next season's Champions League.

For all of Kane's brilliance, his determination to return even stronger and his desire to propel Spurs back into Europe's premier competition, the odds are stacked against the 26-year-old firing on all cylinders when the Premier League returns next week.

No amount of training, friendlies or personal sessions on Zoom can fully prepare Kane for the challenge ahead of him. It will be approaching six months since the striker last played a competitive game of football by the time Project Restart kicks off and even some of his biggest supporters fear nine games in six weeks will prove too much, too soon.

Kane's presence alone will boost Tottenham and there is nobody - even when some way short of full fitness - most managers would prefer to be presented with a golden opportunity or penalty to save the season.

Given the 'Roy of the Rovers' nature of his career over the past six years, it would take a brave soul to bet against Kane making an impact on his return. But expectations of a miracle should also be tempered by the England captain's admission that he would not have been fully fit for the European Championship.

Tottenham's first game back will take place a few days after England had been due to face Croatia in their first game of the postponed Euros.

"With all the injuries I've had, I've never rushed them," Kane said. "Whenever I've come back, I've always felt ready to play. I've always gone through the protocols and had to do clearance to make sure I can do everything.

"But with this one, looking at it now we had the Euros coming up so I guess I probably wouldn't have been fully fit in terms of loads of training or games. So in that respect you could probably say it's benefited me. The injury feels fine, so whenever we do come back it will have had more than enough time to heal."

Tottenham have understandably been keen to show videos and pictures of Kane back in training, but the images have also prompted questions over his condition. Camera angles can be misleading, but there have been accusations that his body shape may have changed.

Kane had looked as fit as at any point in his career at the start of this season, so even the slightest weight gain would be noticeable - particularly to social media's couch potato fitness fanatics who are so keen to pass judgment.

Encouragingly, Kane has twice returned from injury for the final nine games of a season and on both occasions he was prolific. In 2017, he scored 11 goals on his comeback and 12 months later netted six times, before adding a further six goals at the World Cup to win the Golden Boot.

Kane will have to deliver at a similar rate if Tottenham are to achieve the eight victories he believes will be needed to stand any chance of qualifying for next season's Champions League.

Spurs are eighth in the Premier League table, seven points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, and must still play fifth-placed Manchester United, local rivals Arsenal, Sheffield United, who are seventh, and third-placed Leicester City.

"We have got to finish in the top four," Kane said. "We have got a massive game against Man United in the first game and realistically we are going to have to win seven or eight to get into the Champions League. That has got to be our aim.

"Of course we want to win every game, but we have got to make sure we finish strong if we want to be playing Champions League football next season."

There is also the question of Kane's future, which he addressed shortly after the lockdown started in a live Instagram interview with former Tottenham midfielder Jamie Redknapp.

"I love Spurs, I'll always love Spurs but I've always said if I don't feel we're progressing as a team or going in the right direction, I'm not someone to stay there for the sake of it," he said.

"I'm an ambitious player, I want to improve, get better and become one of the top, top players. It all depends on what happens as a team and how we progress as a team. So it's not a definite I'm going to stay there forever, but it's not a no either."