Coronation day at Wembley Stadium, and though the latest crown claimed by Harry Kane with the first of his three goals against Southampton may, strictly speaking, carry only statistical significance and an extra layer of polish on a personal reputation, it would be grudging to diminish Harry Kane’s milestone.
He set a new record for Premier League potency by hitting his 37th league goal in a single calendar year, and briskly added more.
His tally for 2017 had risen to 38 goals before half-time and, by midway through the second half of Tottenham Hotspur’s rout of a limp Southampton, he had his eighth hat-trick – across competitions –of a year that began, last January 1, with two goals against Watford and was followed up with his first treble of the year against West Bromwich Albion. Stoke City have let in five Kane goals in 2017, Leicester City suffered a Kane quartet in a single match.
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In short, there is not a team in England that does not know from hard experience to be wary of Kane. When the manager of best club side in England, Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, refers to Tottenham as ‘The Harry Kane Team’ what hope for the rest? The more fragile members of the English top flight simply cannot cope with him on days like Tuesday.
Kane’s last league goal of an excellent 2016 had been scored in a 2-1 win over Southampton, via a header; a year on, the same opponents had not wised up.
He nodded Spurs in front by meeting a beautifully measured Christian Eriksen free-kick that Kane himself considered taking, and shooting from.
In this case, Kane chose the target man role, to which he brings such fine skills of movement and anticipation. He did not need the full repertoire to ease in front of Oriel Romeu and head past Fraser Forster.
Southampton, who sit on an alarmingly thin cushion above the relegation zone, were sluggish to cut out danger for Kane’s second goal, too. Granted, they were without Virgil Van Dijk, their defender with greatest authority, an absence that seems to signpost his restlessness with his employers ahead of the January transfer window.
Six minutes before half-time, their back line was unzipped by Dele Alli’s pass, and Son Heung-min’s turn of speed. The Korean’s low cross was tucked in by Kane as a matter of routine. Eriksen, Son and Alli have been Kane’s principal allies in this year of accomplishment.
“They are fantastic players and it’s a pleasure to play with them with the quick passes and one-twos,” said Kane. “I’ll have to buy them all a meal.”
Son and Alli, with precise finishes Kane would have been proud to own, put the outcome beyond realistic retrieval for a Southampton who had poor Shane Long leading their line in the absence of the suspended Charlie Austin.
Long, always industrious, is one forward who will be very glad to say farewell to 2017. This was the striker’s 34th match for club and country without a goal. His last? Way back in February.
Southampton did reduce the deficit, thanks to a Sofiane Boufal effort that Hugo Lloris, leaving a gap at his near post, will regret conceding. By full-time, the Spurs goalkeeper, who turned 31 on Tuesday, was grateful to Kane’s hat-trick. Lloris was poorly positioned when Dusan Tadic volleyed in a second Southampton goal late in the contest.
By then Kane had his third, thanks to an expert run to connect with Alli’s pass and a chip, left-footed, over Forster. It was, including strikes in other competitions and for England, his goal number 55 of 2017.
One day, Kane hopes this gush of goals will bring a major trophy to Spurs, the club he grew up at. In the meantime, he enjoys keeping count.
“To get the record early on was a great feeling,” he said. He is only 24, younger by a year than Alan Shearer was when he struck 36 league goals in 1995. Kane is not a man whose appetite is easily sated; he will be quietly targeting 40 league goals for 2018.