COMMENT By Greg Stobart Follow on Twitter
Five months ago, he was a Tottenham reserve. Now, Harry Kane’s remarkable season looks ever more likely to end with player of the year honours, with some of his new England team-mates having come out in support of his claims for the PFA award.
There’s a temptation to say that scooping the individual awards would complete the fairytale that already includes 29 goals for Tottenham and reached new heights with his first strike for England just 79 seconds after coming on for his first cap on Friday night.
Maybe it’s because the story sometimes feels unbelievable. What’s most remarkable about each new chapter is not just that it’s happening, but that it’s Kane who is doing it. Harry Kane: this impossible-to-dislike, enthusiastic young kid from Chingford who is living out the Roy of the Rovers dream of millions of boys in the playground.
But at 21, this has to be just the start of Kane’s career. Just as his former Tottenham team-mate Gareth Bale built on his three player of the year awards in 2013 by moving to Real Madrid for a world record fee, Kane has to make sure he actually becomes the world-beater he has prematurely been painted as in so many quarters.
As early as October, before Kane had even made his first Premier League start of the season, Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen likened his ‘spirit’ to Cristiano Ronaldo and claimed he was already one of the best strikers around.
Kane’s incredible record of 17 Premier League goals in his last 15 appearances - he has 19 overall, joint top in the division - means his campaign will naturally be compared to the best players in the world, as preposterous as it sounds.
But he will know, though, that he has done nothing yet. Roy Hodgson warned on Friday night not to build Kane up to knock him down as the striker joined the likes of Francis Jeffers and David Nugent in scoring on his England debut.
Hodgson is perfectly right to stress caution and the true test will come for Kane next season. That is when defenders will face him with a gameplan and we will learn whether he can continue to perform with such astonishing consistency.
Consistency and longevity will always be the true test and are what make Ronaldo and Lionel Messi two of the best players in the history of the game. What has set them apart, even more than their obvious skill levels, is that they have done it every week for several years.
It is, perhaps, what has stopped Wayne Rooney from joining them. While the England captain has enjoyed a phenomenal career, there remains a sense of what might have been.
Rooney is now just two goals short of Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 49 goals for England, yet the 29-year-old has scored just one goal in 11 World Cup finals appearances and has been inextricably linked with the failed 'golden generation'.
This is Rooney’s 11th season for Manchester United, but only four times has he scored more than 15 league goals and only twice netted more than 20. It may sound harsh, but those who remember his jaw-droppingly good performances as a fearless teenager can’t help feeling slight disappointment. It’s been very good, sometimes excellent, but Rooney could have been one of the very best.
Right now, Kane would give his right arm to achieve half of what Rooney has in his decorated career over the last decade, but just what are the limits of the Tottenham man’s dream?
On Tuesday, Kane is expected to start against Italy in Turin as England attempt to continue their recovery from last summer’s World Cup with an eighth win in eight matches since Brazil.
In June, they were beaten by Italy in Manaus as Mario Balotelli scored the winner in the tropical city. A player who once had the world at his feet, the forward is now nowhere near a place in the team for either the Azzurri or Liverpool, instead settling for a trot around in charity games at Anfield during the international break.
Balotelli’s fall from grace is another cautionary tale for Kane.
The biggest danger for Kane is that he believes too much in his own hype. A summer in the Czech Republic for the European under-21 championship would serve that purpose by keeping him grounded and giving him valuable experience ahead of the senior tournament in France next year.
Everyone who knows Kane speaks of his boundless enthusiasm and eagerness to learn.
Tim Sherwood, who brought Kane through the development squad at Spurs and promoted him to the first-team last season, told me recently that Kane will be the same "whether he earns £1-a-week or £100,000-a-week".
The English public believe it and that’s why his introduction against Lithuania at Wembley was greeted with such a roar. At the moment, everyone is on Kane’s side.
It won’t always be that way. He will encounter some difficult moments and have to respond to them in the same way that Bale fired Wales to a 3-0 victory over Israel on Sunday, a week after feeling the heat from the Spanish press and Real Madrid boo boys over a disappointing performance in El Clasico.
One day, he might also have to consider whether he can achieve all of his ambitions at Tottenham or whether he has to follow in the footsteps of Bale, Luka Modric and others by moving to one of the powerhouses of world football.
Kane has earned all of the praise he has received this season, he earned his England debut and may earn player of the year awards in the coming months. Let’s all hope, though, that the fairytale does not end so soon.