Friday 18 June 2021 10:25 pm

England 0, Scotland 0: Gareth Southgate needs to find a solution to - or a replacement for - worryingly peripheral Harry Kane

On a night of full-throated support from both sides of football’s oldest rivalry, perhaps the biggest cheer came in the 63rd minute.

That was when Jack Grealish, England’s maverick talent, came off the bench as the hosts searched for a breakthrough against Scotland.

The cheers reflected Grealish’s elevation to cult hero status, but also a recognition that England needed fresh impetus.

Because the uncomfortable truth is that, for all of Gareth Southgate’s array of attacking talents, the team remains worryingly impotent.

At the crux of this riddle is Harry Kane, whose two displays at Euro 2020 so far have been utterly peripheral.

Kane is England’s centre-forward, the supposed cutting edge of an attack that boasts some of Europe’s most exciting talents.

Yet the man who finished top of the charts for Premier League goals and assists last season has been blunt at best.

If we are being totally honest, the typically all-action Kane has barely been noticeable.

Before his 73rd-minute substitution, Kane had the fewest touches (19) of any England player – by a long way.

He also had the lowest pass completion rate (63.6 per cent) of any outfield player in Southgate’s starting XI.

And this was no one-off: he was bottom of the class for both in the opening win over Croatia too.

England’s striker is yet to register a shot on target in 154 minutes either, nor an assist.

Kane ‘like a glorified training ground mannequin’

In the first half he was not released in behind the Scottish defence once, and it never looked a danger.

We know that Kane 2.0 likes to drop off and play balls round the corner for speedy team-mate like Raheem Sterling or Heung-min Son to hare after.

But he wasn’t doing that either. Sterling, Mason Mount and Phil Foden were already picking up those positions, so Kane wasn’t needed.

His only function seemed to be occupying Scotland defenders, like a glorified training ground mannequin.

Kane did improve slightly in the second half, pulling wider and dropping deeper to get on the ball. 

Still, his most meaningful act was to set up Reece James for a shot that flew over.

It’s difficult to know why Kane has looked like such a passenger at this tournament.

Do his team-mates know something we don’t? Is he carrying an injury? Have his legs gone?

Whatever the explanation, it is hindering England, who have scored just once in two games.

And there is no obvious like-for-like replacement. 

Marcus Rashford can play centrally, and replaced Kane against Scotland, but is a different sort of forward.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin is more of a target man and a finisher but may not link up with his fellow attackers as neatly.

England relied heavily on Kane’s Golden Boot-winning goals on their run to the World Cup semi-finals in Russia three years ago.

Southgate must find a way of reviving Kane – or replacing him – if he is to dream of going so far again.

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