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Teetotal, golf and four loans



Harry Kane played for Millwall FC in Spring 2012.

For years, Harry Kane has been the lifeline of Tottenham Hotspur and England – but his path has not been direct. Between 2011 and 2013, FC Bayern’s dream striker gained professional experience at several loan stations before asserting himself at his favorite club. Two companions from back then remember.

This article was first published in April 2020.

Maik Taylor was 41 when he joined Millwall FC in March 2012, becoming first-choice keeper for the remaining ten games of the season. He should bring experience to a club that was in acute relegation troubles in the second-tier championship and attacked the 18-year-old Tottenham loan Harry Kane.

When Taylor came, he already knew. “A friend of mine had seen a season ticket at Tottenham and Harry at a few Europa League games at the time,” he recalled SPOX and GOALS. “And he said to me: ‘The boy has everything. He’s going to be a big one.'” At Millwall, he was first and foremost a very important person.

In the final stretch of the 2011/12 season, Kane became Millwall’s non-relegation hero with four goals in their last six games. The fans then voted him the club’s best young player. It was the next step on Kane’s two-year, four-loan detour from Tottenham youth player to Tottenham regular.

Harry Kane: Second attempt to Tottenham Hotspur

Kane grew up near White Hart Lane, of course his family was with the Spurs. The enthusiasm was correspondingly great when young Harry was invited to a trial session; the disappointment was correspondingly great when it was rejected. He then played for rivals Arsenal, but only briefly. “A bit chubby and not very athletic,” according to then Academy Director Liam Brady. Sorted out.

Kane only made a lasting impression at Watford FC – even Tottenham, who changed their minds and accepted him into the youth academy. He was ten at the time and for him it was the fulfillment of a dream. Tottenham! His Tottenham. Just six years later he signed his first professional contract, then the loans came.

Those loans that are the gateway to a career dead end for so many emerging talents from top English clubs. Pushed from one club to the next and from one country to the next, until the first contract ends at some point and with it the dream of a great career. For Kane, however, the loans should not lead to a dead end, but to the goal via detours.

It all started in January 2011: Kane signed for London third division club Leyton Orient, where he alternated between the starting XI and the bench and scored five goals. On his return in the summer of 2011, he also scored for Tottenham in the Europa League group stage against Shamrock Rovers. Coach Harry Redknapp helped him make his first professional appearances for his youth club, and Taylor’s season-ticket friend was watching closely.

Harry Kane at Millwall: Always a smile and no alcohol

But Kane moved on to Millwall, where Taylor knew after the first training sessions together that his friend had been right. “Harry already had a great left foot, a great right foot and a great header. He had it all, was kind of like a young Alan Shearer.” Alan Shearer, it must be remembered, is the most prolific Premier League goalscorer in history, a comparison to him is maximum praise for a striker. But it wasn’t just his footballing qualities that distinguished Kane. “His enthusiasm was unbelievable. He loves football more than anything and back then he wore a smile to every training session, to every game,” says Taylor.

The goalkeeper veteran had already seen everything at the age of 41. He played in Southampton in the south and in Leeds in the north, he played in the country at Farnborough and now in the metropolis of London. Everywhere he had seen loanees from bigger clubs come and go and most of them, says Taylor, thought they were too good. “But Harry was always respectful. In fact, it was impossible not to like him.”

He was well integrated into the team – although he disregarded the connecting element of beer consumption. Then as now, Kane abstains from alcohol. “He’s a teetotal,” says Taylor with a smile. “Although he always attended the team evenings, he didn’t drink anything and went home early. Harry is a family man and prefers to be at home.”

Handicap 6 and goals against Millwall relegation

Outside, he liked it best on green grass, on the soccer ball – just like on the golf course. “After the training sessions, he often went golfing with his teammates. He was able to relax there,” says Taylor. “I also played with him a few times – and mostly lost. Harry is a great golfer, he already had a handicap of 6 at the time.”

On the football pitch, Kane fought his way to a regular at Millwall straight after his January 2012 move. He didn’t score the first goal until almost two months later, but then he scored regularly and thus played a large part in staying up. “If Harry hadn’t come we probably wouldn’t have stayed inside,” Millwall’s assistant coach at the time, Joe Gallen, told the Guardians. “His goals and the way he played made everything change for the better.”

Millwall benefited from Kane – and Kane benefited from Millwall. “This relegation battle made me a man,” he later said. Kane returned to Tottenham as an 18-year-old man, making his Premier League debut as a substitute in a 2-1 defeat at Newcastle United on Matchday 1 of the 2012/13 season.

Harry Kane’s double bad luck with injuries at Norwich

Shortly before the transfer window closed, however, Kane opted for the third part of the detour: Norwich City, Premier League. But that, one has to say in retrospect, he could have saved himself. Kane fractured his metatarsal after setting up a 1-0 winner in his second spell with Norwich, a League Cup game against Doncaster Rovers.

He completed the necessary rehab at home in London before returning to Norwich in December for a total of 161 competitive minutes. Just as he was settling in, Tottenham ended the season-ending loan deal early due to injury concerns and brought Kane back. However, he was not used and when the personnel situation had eased in mid-February, he was allowed to go again. This time to the Championship, this time to Leicester City.

Harry Kane: Memorable speech in Leicester

Kane already knew the procedures. He was now used to finding his way around quickly in new environments. On the pitch with all his presence, with his power in the opposing penalty area and his height of 1.88 meters and also with his courage. His courage, which he didn’t lose on the way from the pitch to the dressing room. “After one of his first games for us, he gave a speech in the dressing room. It was very unusual that he dared to do that as a young lad,” recalled Leicester reserve goalkeeper Conrad Logan at the time SPOX and GOALS. “I remember that situation more than anything else. It showed that he has the potential to be a leader and captain.”

When Logan talks about Kane, the same sentences are used as with Taylor: Even then he had all the sporting prerequisites for a great career, got along well with everyone and always trained with the greatest dedication and joy. “After regular training sessions, Harry always wanted to work extra shifts,” Logan recalls. “Sometimes I had to stay longer because he needed a keeper for his shooting practice. And when we were done, he usually went to the gym.”

All the work didn’t initially lead to goals, Kane only scored twice in the rest of the season and missed the targeted promotion to the Premier League with Leicester in the Championship playoff. What he failed to achieve with his team, he did at least personally: his fourth loan was his last, Kane finally returned to Tottenham and, after recovering from a back injury, he fought his way closer and closer to the starting XI in spring 2014.

The long overdue starting XI debut for Tottenham

On April 7, coach Tim Sherwood finally gave Kane, now 20, a Premier League starting debut against Sunderland AFC. “It didn’t feel like an experiment,” Sherwood said afterwards. “Honestly, it was overdue.” And how it was overdue! Kane scored one goal himself and set up another in the 5-1 win.

In the rest of the season he got two more goals, from the following he was an undisputed regular player. Kane now has 213 Premier League goals, just 47 short of record goalscorer Alan Shearer. He is now captain of the England national team. The detours were worth it.

Harry Kane’s loan performance data

Period club games Gates assists
01/2011 to 05/2011 Leyton Orient 18 5
01/2012 to 05/2012 Millwall FC 27 9 5
08/2012 to 02/2013 Norwich City 5 1
02/2013 to 05/2013 Leicester City 15 2