Spurs star Kane knows the merits of the Europa League and wants to qualify again
Harry Kane earned his place in Tottenham’s strongest side by scoring six goals in Spurs’ first five Europa League games this season - and he says the Lilywhites want to be playing on the continent again next term.
If anyone knows the value of playing Europa League football at Tottenham, it is Harry Kane.
While the 21-year-old striker is ending the season as one of the Premier League’s top scorers, it did not start that way.
Emmanuel Adebayor began the campaign as Mauricio Pochettino’s first-choice striker and Kane had to take his chances to impress in the cup competitions – which he did.
The young forward hit six goals in Spurs’ first five European fixtures – including a hat-trick against Asteras Tripolis – while also netting in both of the Capital One Cup ties against Nottingham Forest and Brighton.
It meant that, when Spurs were trailing 1-0 at Aston Villa at the start of November, it was fairly obvious that their best attacking player was on the bench, and the fans sang Kane’s name, calling for his introduction.
Pochettino brought him on in the 58th minute and Kane completed a dramatic late turnaround with a 90th-minute winning free kick – his ninth goal in all competitions.
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The rest is history and, as Spurs fans debate whether they might be better off avoiding the Europa League next season, it is worth questioning whether Kane’s fairytale season would have got off the ground if he had not been able to build momentum and confidence and showcase his talent in the competition earlier in the season – and who might benefit from the opportunity next term.
For his own part, Kane is clear that Tottenham should be aspiring to participate on the continent next season.
“It’s more games, it gives us more opportunities to play together,” he said. “The Champions League teams have to do the same. If they go and win the Champions League they have to play that many games, so the Europa League’s no different.
“If anything it gives us a bit more experience in Europe, hopefully to try to push on to that Champions League. As players we and everyone around the team want to be involved.
“The Europa League’s another chance to win a trophy, which we’ve made it clear that we want to do - start winning more trophies. We’re going to try to win the last two games to qualify for the Europa League, and we’ll be taking that competition very seriously.”
Tottenham hardly seem to be busting a gut to secure their European spot, having won just one of their last six games – including a dismal 3-0 defeat at Stoke on Saturday.
Charlie Adam and Steven N’Zonzi took advantage of poor defensive errors to give the Potters a 2-0 half-time lead, and Vlad Chiriches was sent off five minutes after the break, with Mame Biram Diouf piling on the agony late on.
“Obviously everyone’s disappointed,” said Kane. “We gave away two sloppy goals in the first half, which we’ve been doing all season to be honest – and it’s something we’ve got to get better at. Then getting a man sent off straight at the start of the second half made it near enough impossible.
“But we never give up. The lads on the pitch gave it a right good go, but obviously being 2-0 down with 10 men, it’s difficult, and we got punished at the end.
“I still think we were really motivated and we knew we wanted to win the game. It’s a tough game but giving away sloppy goals doesn’t help and, especially away from home at a place like that, they know how to see out games, and they did it well.
“We’re all a team. It’s not just the defence, it’s the whole unit, starting from the front all the way to the back. We’ve got to get better at it as a team and we’ve got to learn from days like this, and we’ve got to get better.
“We’ve got a young team and we’ve had a new manager this season so we’ve been working on different things, and I feel we’re progressing.
“Obviously our recent form hasn’t been great but we’ll try to finish this season strongly and then be positive going into next season, try to progress and see how far we can get up the league.
“The Premier League’s a tough league and there are no easy games. We keep working hard and that’s football, sometimes it doesn’t go your way, but it’s about how you react. There are two more games now – two tough games - but we want to finish strongly and win both of them.”
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs