Harry Kane has played down concerns over his fitness after being substituted during England’s 0-0 draw with Scotland and insisted he has not been distracted by the focus on his desire to leave Tottenham this summer.
England’s captain, who admitted that he is not undroppable after struggling during last Sunday’s win over Croatia, is adamant that his sluggish start to Euro 2020 is not down to a lack of sharpness. Kane, substituted against Scotland because of Gareth Southgate’s desire for more energy in attack, stressed he is not injured and the team’s main source of goals aims to be firing when it matters after fading towards the end of the 2018 World Cup.
“Gareth is within his rights to make the changes he thinks are best for the team,” Kane said. “What we’ve learned over past tournaments is about trying to peak at the right time. The best time to be peaking is in the knockout stages and hopefully kick on from there. Maybe in Russia there were times, towards the quarter- and semi-final, when I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be. In the end we didn’t get to where we wanted to go, maybe partly for that reason.
“It’s about managing the squad, making sure everyone is feeling as fit and sharp as possible. In my case, it was a tough couple of games and it’s about making sure I’m right for the rest of them. I didn’t have any issues. I didn’t feel physically I wasn’t up to it. I felt going into those games as good as I’ve felt all season, if I’m honest.”
Kane, who is being targeted by Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City, dismissed the idea that publicising his determination to leave Spurs has affected his performances. “Absolutely not,” the 27-year-old said. “All my focus is on how I can help this team and how we can be successful in this tournament. I understand from a media point of view there is speculation but I am fully focused on the job here.”
Kane, who has scored twice for club and country since recovering from an ankle injury in April, called for patience after Southgate’s young side were booed off against Scotland. England, who have four points from their first two games in Group D, need to beat the Czech Republic on Tuesday to ensure they qualify for the last 16 in first place.
“Inside the group, it’s time to be calm,” Kane said. “The first objective was to qualify. If you turn the results around and we drew against Croatia and beat Scotland and had four points, I don’t think there would be too many arguments.
“We could have played a lot better on Friday night but these games aren’t easy. Scotland are playing for their life in this tournament. You don’t just turn up and walk over teams. You have to play to your best ability to win. We didn’t quite do that but we didn’t lose, which was important.”
Kane suggested that England are yet to peak. “I still feel like there are things we can improve but I also feel like we still have enough ability and togetherness to go very far in this tournament,” he said. “We’d have loved to have won the first two games and beat the Czech Republic and be nine points and be cruising.
“But then sometimes you get a hit back down to earth when you get knocked out in the early knockout stage because you think everything is great and there might be one or two things you’ve missed and you need to work on. Sometimes a result like Scotland wakes you up a little bit – maybe opens your eyes to areas that we do need to improve. It could be a good thing, what happened to us last night.”
Kane suggested that he is still building an understanding with his fellow attackers. Mason Mount and City’s Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden joined the squad late after playing in the Champions League final between Chelsea and City last month.
“Obviously you don’t get as many England games as you do club football,” Kane said. “It might take you a game or two to get that little bit more understanding of where each other are going to be on the pitch, the runs players make when I drop deep, people running in behind, or vice versa. These couple of games have been a bit of that.
“We’ve had two great clean sheets and that’s what we’re going to be going forward. We all pride ourselves on not conceding, from front to back, and now I feel we can get better in the attacking third and be a bit more fluid and a bit more free and create a few more chances. Then we can be a strong team.”