England: In Their Own Words

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Harry Kane

To read the full 2018 article, “Zero to 100,” click here.

When Tottenham sent me out on loan for two years, there were so many moments when I questioned whether I’d ever get the chance to score even one goal in the Premier League. But I also learned a lot of great lessons during those years. I remember going to Millwall in 2012, and we were in a relegation dogfight. 

As the season went on, and we were still around the drop zone, some of the lads in the dressing room started to say some things that caught me off guard. “Mate, if we go down, my wages will get cut in half.” Or, “If we go down, I’ll be out of a contract.”

These were guys with little kids at home — and that’s when I started to see the game on a whole other level, really. You start to realize that some people aren’t just playing for the sport. It’s for their family’s livelihood, you know? You start to realize how delicate this all can be — and that, in football, everything you’ve worked for can go away in an instant. My experience at Millwall made me realize that I just couldn’t be a kid anymore. It was an important learning spell for me — and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I performed very well there. More importantly, we stayed up.

Harry Kane | England National Football Team | The Players' Tribune
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I was hoping that I had done enough for Spurs to keep me around the following season. Unfortunately, they sent me back out on loan — and that was the beginning of a really tough time. The lowest moment was probably when I was at Leicester City, and I just couldn’t seem to get into the team. They were still in the Championship at the time — and I just remember sitting in my flat and having this terrible realization of, like, “If I can’t play for Leicester in the Championship … how am I supposed to play for Spurs in the Premier League?”

That was the first time in my career, I’d say, that the doubt crept in. It’s a tough thing, doubt. My family came over later that night — and we got into kind of a heated discussion. I was so down that I told my dad I wanted to leave. It would have been a terrible mistake, but I was really doubting myself. My dad said, “Look, keep working — keep doing. Get on with it, and everything will be alright.” 

A few weeks later, I was sitting in my flat again — and at the time I was really getting into the NFL. If I wasn’t training, then I was playing Madden or watching New England Patriots videos on YouTube. So one day, I happened to stumble on this documentary on Tom Brady. And it’s all about the six quarterbacks who were taken before him in the NFL draft.

Turns out, Tom Brady was the 199th pick in his draft class. Imagine that. It just blew my mind — but in a good way. The film really struck a chord with me. Everyone was doubting Tom his whole life. Even when he got to college the coaches were trying to replace him with another quarterback. They showed this picture of him being weighed by the scouts before the NFL draft, and he’s got his shirt off … and it’s so funny, because he’s just looking like a regular guy, you know? And this one coach says, “We’re looking at this Brady kid, and he’s tall and gangly, and he looks like he’s never even seen a weight room.”

Turns out, Tom Brady was the 199th pick in his draft class. Imagine that. It just blew my mind.

Harry Kane

He reminded me of me. People were always making the same assumptions about me. “Well, you know, he doesn’t look like a proper striker.”

It was genuinely inspiring to me. Brady believed in himself so much — and he just kept working and working, almost obsessively, in order to get better. It really connected with me. This might sound strange, but it really was like this light flicked on inside my head that day, right there on my sofa in Leicester — and all of a sudden, I said, “You know what? I’m going to do it. I’m going to work as hard as possible, and my chance is going to come, and I’m going to grab it.”