Sport Comment: Constrasting fates of England prospects explains Defoe deal

Kane made a slower start to his career but has overtaken fellow 21-year-old Wickham with his displays this season for Tottenham
WE’RE halfway through January and I’m sure I can hear Sky Sports’ Jim White gargling with Dettol (why does he shout into the camera lens whereas Des Lynam rarely registered more than a purr?) Yes, the end of the transfer window is in sight.

This week saw a typical January story unfold. Jermain Defoe’s return from Toronto and Major League Soccer fitted the winter window bill. Defoe, at 32, is past his prime but perhaps potent enough to do a job for any team in need of goals. So it was that various outlets suggested half of the Premier League, some 10 clubs, were keen to sign him.

One club that do not want him were Tottenham, his old employers, who have allowed him to train ahead of any move. One of the clubs who did want him were Sunderland, who were ready to offer their non-scoring, £6m striker Jozy Altidore in exchange.

And that is interesting because of the respective fortunes of two young players who have matched each other almost stride for stride at Spurs and Sunderland.

At Tottenham, I give you Harry Kane, aged 21, an England cap at various levels from under-17 to under-21 where he bagged 13 goals in 12 games.

At Sunderland, step forward Connor Wickham, also aged 21, and capped at under-16 through to under-21 (six goals in 17 games).

Kane, the top flight’s new blond sensation, has come through the Spurs ranks and learned the modern way through loans at Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester.

Wickham – also fair-haired – made an early noise with his £8m switch from Ipswich to Wearside as an 18-year-old in 2011, but similarly had to pick up game time during loans at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds.

SHERINGHAM
Only in the last year have both made a big impact. Wickham, after flattering to deceive many times, got his chance in the spring and helped shoot Sunderland to unlikely survival with five goals in his side’s last six matches, including one in the historic first league defeat of Chelsea under Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge.

And Kane? He had to wait until last April for his first league start – and he scored, too, in a 5-1 win. It was against Sunderland, just before their dash to safety (with Wickham an unused substitute at White Hart Lane).

Now both young men have signed improved new deals. Kane’s August contract is about to be improved again, according to good sources. And with good reason.

No less a judge than Glenn Hoddle reckons Kane could be another Teddy Sheringham, but with more pace and the ability to play both as lone striker or in the hole.

Wickham? After last spring’s flowering his form has withered again. He still has a lot to prove even though he is repeatedly played out of position.

And that is why Jermain Defoe is not wanted by Spurs, while Sunderland would happily put out an American marching band to welcome him to the Stadium of Light. Stand by: Jim White’s clearing his throat.

YOUNG GUNS

Harry Kane, Tottenham
Born: 28 July 1993, Chingford
Fee: None – youth scheme graduate
Height: 1.88m (6ft 2ins)
Weight: 65kg (10st 2lbs)
Tottenham record: 53 games, 23 goals
This season: 27 games, 17 goals

Connor Wickham, Sunderland
Born: 31 March 1993, Hereford
Fee: £8m from Ipswich (2011)
Height: 1.91m (6ft 3ins)
Weight: 90kg (14st 2lbs)
Sunderland record: 73 games, 12 goals
This season: 22 games, 2 goals