I’d have a cigar on if I were defending against Harry Kane in this World Cup… England have him FAR too deep | The Sun

HONESTLY, if I was a defender at this World Cup I would absolutely love playing against Harry Kane.

He doesn’t get in behind the defence and he doesn’t face you up. He’s a link player who is going deeper and deeper to get the ball.

Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling on either side of him do face people up and take the ball to them, but they’re not getting in behind either and there are no crosses coming in for Kane where he can be dangerous.

People probably feel I’ve got it in for Harry after I also said we should take the captaincy off him and give it to Declan Rice.

But that isn’t the case at all. And it’s not an Arsenal-Spurs thing either.

We need Harry Kane, he is obviously one of the best strikers in the World, you only have to look at his numbers, but if I was a centre-back up against him in Qatar I’d have a cigar on.


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What I always feared was forwards with pace who could get in the spaces behind and force me to chase them.

That scared the living daylights out of me, I hated it, but Kane doesn’t do that. And if he was running at me I’d be able to deal with that because he’s not going to have the pace to get round me.

George Graham used to do a team talk for us at Arsenal and put the names of the forwards on the tactics board where he’d say things like “Go tight to this one, give him a kick, he’s no threat in behind you, push him the other way, job done.”

But when it came to players from my generation like Ian Rush, Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke we had to be careful and keep our wits about us because they were going to make those runs.

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By contrast Teddy Sheringham was no problem, I would go tight all day with Teddy. Alan Shearer in those earlier days with Blackburn when they won the league was a handful but he was easy to mark in his later years when he was less mobile.

He was tough and it was a fight but the actual marking was quite straight-forward.

Harry’s 29 now and isn’t going to get any quicker so, like Shearer, he needs players to feed him.

Where I want to see Harry is on the edge of the box, holding the ball up, pivoting and laying it off the way Shearer could do and Alan Smith did for us at Arsenal.

Then he has to get in the penalty area and hope we finally start putting some crosses in. That’s where I want to see him, not ten yards inside his own half. He’s no good to anyone there.

We’re not playing to his strengths. The only time he’ll come to life and be a threat is from a set piece at the moment.

The rest of the side can help by dragging our opponents around and, stretching the play and creating room for our attackers to work. That didn’t happen against the USA who were happy to tighten it up and their centre-halves didn’t break sweat.

In fact as Harry went deeper they didn’t even follow him, they just left Tyler Adams to deal with him in midfield. Talk about having an easy life in defence.

If I’d been changing it against USA I’d have put Callum Wilson on and taken Harry off to give them something different to think about.

We might benefit from playing the occasional long ball too. Teams have got out of the habit, believing you have to keep tight possession all the time.

But a well hit long pass – not just a hoof down the field – can work wonders unsettling the opposition and putting them on the back foot. Jordan Pickford is good at it and so are Harry Maguire and John Stones.

What’s wrong with pinging one up there for Saka to run on to?

Going with a few 60 yarders would be my tactic for the first ten minutes against Wales. Get them running backwards and push on to them. Let’s get them panicking from the off.

Get Harry on the two centre-halves as high as he can and make them earn their money and realise they’ve been in a game.

I wasn’t as euphoric as everyone else after our 6-2 win over Iran and I wasn’t as depressed as some after our draw against the USA who raised their game.

I mentioned in this column how I was worried about our defence and leaving holes when the fullbacks bombed on and we sorted that out and did really well. There were positives in the performances of Maguire and Stones who will be pleased with a clean sheet and we had a good defensive shape.

I’m a bit like Gareth Southgate, a little cautious and when fans were calling for us to go for it by throwing three attackers on including Phil Foden, I was content to get out of the USA game unscathed.

He’ll probably pick Foden for the Wales match to freshen it up but I wouldn’t make loads of changes.

I’m still looking at that likely match against France in the quarter-finals and seeing how well prepared we’re going to be for it. Unless we can raise the bar we’re not going to get past them.

So as we work towards that I’d be telling Harry Kane every minute of the day – “Get up the pitch”!

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