It was interesting that when Harry Kane launched his charitable foundation on Monday, with the aim to transform the conversation around mental health, he brought up his release by Arsenal as an eight-year-old.
The Tottenham and England striker has not hidden the detail; it is a part of his story and he has always been an open person, happy to engage. But at the same time, it has long had the trappings of a guilty secret – you know, Spurs’ homegrown hero and the other mob in north London.
Kane wanted to share the episode in a cartoon that went out on his social media channels because he felt it was important to address the subject of rejection for his younger fans (and the older ones, too); to show that strength can come in adversity if there is the willingness to “go again and work even harder”.
The 29-year-old read a bedtime story for the nation’s children that evening on CBeebies and, in it, he admitted to feeling vulnerable and fearful at times, and how it was OK.
This was Kane opening up to own the narrative in all the right ways and for all the right reasons. It also highlighted the single truth behind everything he has achieved. To paraphrase him from his press conference before the pivotal Champions League tie at home against Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday night, his identity is to fight and to prove people wrong.
Kane has a lot going on, a great weight on his shoulders – mainly because of the World Cup, which kicks off in Qatar on 20 November. Every time the England captain feels a challenge and goes down, it is as if the nation holds its breath. An injury to Gareth Southgate’s talisman is unthinkable. Kane is committed, as well, to wearing the OneLove armband at the finals as part of an anti-discrimination initiative and in support of the LGBTQ+ community. He has taken on the responsibility of being a face for the campaign.
But first Spurs and vaulting his latest obstacle. Kane has started the season brilliantly – with eight goals in 12 club matches, almost all of them decisive. If it were not for some bloke at Manchester City, Kane’s form would have been trumpeted more widely. And yet in three Champions League ties so far, he has drawn blanks. It has to change, with even Antonio Conte, the Spurs manager, acknowledging that “we need his goals in the Champions League”.
Kane goes back to the Arsenal rejection. He goes back to those loan spells at the beginning of his professional career – two of which, at Norwich and Leicester, did not work out. He will dig deeper and he will overcome.
“It’s always been part of my personality to prove people wrong and when you look back on my career … going out on loan and the things I had to achieve to get to where I am now, for sure, that’s part of my identity,” Kane said, when asked about the Arsenal rejection cartoon.
“It’s a really important message for any young boys or girls wanting to become footballers or anything in life. There are going be knocks along the way but it’s about how you cope with that – keep working and keep moving forward. My personality is to prove, not just people wrong, but to myself that I can be the best that I know I can be.
“I want to score in every game. There have been a few in the [Champions League] group and I’ve been disappointed not to get on the scoresheet. I’m hoping I can turn it around.”
For Kane and his teammates the ruthlessness was not there in last Tuesday’s 0-0 draw against Eintracht in Frankfurt and, with the group finely balanced, Conte did not have to spell out why Spurs had to “exploit” this tie and the one that follows against Sporting, also at home.
Conte will again be without Dejan Kulusevski, who has had a precautionary scan on his injured hamstring; it showed no problems and he could return against Everton on Saturday. Lucas Moura is back in the squad after a tendon issue.
Kane was asked about Erling Haaland, who has begun the season in such scorching form at City. Kane has only respect and admiration for him but the numbers of a rival are of no concern. “Because it’s nothing I can control,” Kane said.
“I am concentrating on what I can do and helping the team in any way that is possible. It has been going well so far in the Premier League. I want to try to score a few more goals in the Champions League.”