England boss Gareth Southgate has talked up Harry Kane’s leadership credentials but stopped short of naming him permanent Three Lions captain despite handing him the skipper’s armband for tonight’s World Cup qualifier against Slovenia.
Tottenham striker Kane was named England captain for their clashes with Scotland and France in June, although Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson was Southgate’s more recent choice in last month’s showdowns against Malta and Slovakia.
The 24-year-old has the chance to guide his side to next year’s World Cup in Russia with England five points clear at the summit of Group F and they will be guaranteed automatic qualification with a win at Wembley this evening.
“He’s certainly someone whose leadership qualities are invaluable to us as a team and he’s clearly in a very good moment in his form,” said Southgate of Kane, who has scored 13 goals in his last eight matches for club and country.
“We really enjoy working with him and I’ve known him a long time. He’s improved and is maturing all the time as well.”
Southgate, however, continues to keep his thoughts regarding a full-time successor to the now-retired Wayne Rooney close to his chest.
“I haven’t decided yet,” added the 47-year-old. “The important thing for me was when we looked at the group of players at the start, we saw potential leaders but lads who hadn’t had experience of leading.
“[The questions were] How do we allow for that to happen and how do we give them a feel for it? I think that’s worked well over the last few months.
“All of those experiences will stand them in good stead. Different situations, different opportunities to be in front of people, sharing a responsibility of team. I think that’s key.”
Southgate’s predecessor Roy Hodgson voiced reservations over Kane being given the England captaincy, expressing concern that the added responsibility could act as an unnecessary burden for such a prodigious goalscorer. Kane disagrees.
“Having an armband on your arm doesn’t make any difference to how you play and if you score goals or not,” said Kane.
“It makes me proud. Growing up as a kid you dream about playing for your country and being captain as well. Walking out at Wembley will be an amazing thing for me.”
England will be without suspended Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli, who was handed a one-game ban by world governing body Fifa after being caught on camera raising his middle finger against Slovakia.
Alli claimed he was communicating with former Spurs team-mate Kyle Walker, although Fifa opted to impose a suspension and Southgate believes the 21-year-old has learnt from his mistake.
“He recognises his responsibilities and how things will be viewed, and how his world is changing in terms of the attention on him and the spotlight on him,” said Southgate. “He won’t do it again, that’s for sure.”