As the song goes tis the season to be jolly. And while 2017 again saw a title tilt fade, a trophy cabinet fail to add to its collection and a temporary home at Wembley about as welcoming as the fog descending on Sheikh Zayed Road at rush hour, there is still plenty to be thankful for at Tottenham Hotspur.
In keeping with the time of year, the Spurs dressing room has a ready-made cast of pantomime acts. Dele Alli, whose studs have left flesh wounds on Kevin de Bruyne and Charlie Taylor in successive weekends, is the villain; Daniel Levy, the penny-pinching chairman with a knack for hiring world-class talent on second-tier wages, is the perfect Ebenezer Scrooge; Christian Eriksen is the beauty to Eric Dier’s beast, while Mauricio Pochettino could play Peter Pan, the manager who never gets old.
Star billing however is reserved for Harry Kane, Spurs’ very own Prince Charming, the knight in shining armour, the protagonist, the hero showered with adulation while his support cast wipe custard pie from their faces and trip over themselves trying to get out of the donkey costume.
Spurs have hit too many bumps in the road this season for another title challenge, so a top-four finish, a deep run in the Uefa Champions League and the FA Cup are the new targets for the first half of 2018. But while the collective aims have hit the buffers, Kane’s 2017 has known no bounds. A hat-trick in the win at Burnley on Saturday saw him tie Alan Shearer’s record of 36 for number of Premier League goals in a calendar year. He will get one more shot to write his name in the history books against Southampton on Tuesday. In this type of form, few would doubt him doing it.
And all this at the tender age of 24. Kane’s treble at Turf Moor was the seventh time this year he had taken home the match ball and saw him move to joint-fifth on the list of most Premier League hat-tricks, four shy of Shearer’s record mark of 11.
Though not quite the so-called “perfect” hat-trick – a penalty and a one-on-one with his right, a clinical finish with his left - each goal highlighted the England striker’s attributes: cool under pressure, expert decision-making as well as work ethic and a supreme judgement of angles – the third a trademark goal into the side netting after Kane himself had won the ball back deep in Burnley territory.
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Kane’s form bodes well not only for club but also country with the World Cup in Russia now just six months away. But while each goal is celebrated – 53 times across all competitions for club and country this year - and burnishes a reputation that now firmly belongs with the elite, it brings with it trepidation that Kane, like Gareth Bale and Luka Modric before him, may feel he has gone as far as he can with this Tottenham side.
It is understood Real Madrid, perennial poachers of Spurs’ finest talent, were already readying themselves for a record bid for Spurs’ talisman even before seeing his qualities up close and personal during their two meetings in the Champions League group stages.
Adjustment to life away from White Hart Lane was always going to be a tall order for Spurs given how imperious they had been there in 2016/17. Failure to provide Kane with a Champions League platform when they return in 2017/18 - either by winning it this term or finishing in England’s top four - will mean keeping him out of the clutches of one of Europe’s heavyweights will be an even bigger task.