Tottenham 4 Stoke 0: Harry Kane’s emergence in the Tottenham Hotspur side inspired chants of ‘He’s one of our own’, with the player accorded cult hero status almost immediately.
Three years later, Mauricio Pochettino admits that ranking could soon be upgraded to club legend.
A week after his hat-trick against Fulham set up Tottenham’s FA Cup quarter-final meeting with Millwall, Kane collected another match ball, this time after his first-half treble had killed off Stoke City and taken the 23-year-old past the landmark of 100 career club goals.
By the end of the afternoon, Kane’s season tally had risen past the 20-goal mark for the third consecutive campaign while his stock at White Hart Lane had soared even higher.
The England international demonstrated another side to his game when he unselfishly teed up team-mate Dele Alli for the fourth in first-half added time but it is Kane’s unquenchable appetite for goals that marks him out as one of the Premier League’s most dangerous forwards. Pochettino went further, insisting his player deserves to be considered among the game’s global elite and a superb all-round display did nothing to undermine the Tottenham manager’s point of view.
“Harry has the profile to be a legend,” said Pochettino, who maintained his side still harboured hopes of chasing down Chelsea after moving up to second place, 10 points behind Antonio Conte’s side.
“Maybe he’s starting to be a legend with the goals he’s scoring and the way he behaves. He is so professional.
“He has the perfect profile to be a legend here. He has his character. Sometimes he argues with me. Sometimes he’s upset with me. Sometimes he is happy. He has a strong character. His personality is because he showed on the pitch behaviour as he showed today.”
The manager added: “He is one of the best. I am pleased for him. He deserves it (to reach 100 goals). He is very professional, a top man and I’m very happy. This is not new for me. I’ve said many times for me one of the best strikers in the world.”
Stoke manager Mark Hughes, someone who led the line at Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern Munich during his playing days, was equally impressed. “He either takes chances or creates them or he’s involved in creation of chances, always involved at the sharp end.
“There’s great movement around him and that causes consternation. He benefits from that. He’s in a good team and he’s a good player and when it all clicks they’re very difficult to stop.”
Pochettino had reason to be grateful for Kane’s efforts that helped Spurs quickly move on from the bitter disappointment of last Thursday’s Europa League exit at the hands of Gent, as had Alli.
The midfielder’s first-half red card contributed to the failure to overturn a first-leg deficit and sparked a debate about the 20-year-old’s temperament that Alli and his manager admitted had taken its toll in the build-up to this game.
“It has been a difficult week for me,” said Alli. “I felt horrible after the game in the week. I’m delighted to respond like this today.”
Pochettino’s relief was also evident. “Our conversations are private but I gave more love than normal,” said the manager. “He’s very mature and he showed that today. I am happy for him because he was sad and disappointed. He is only 20 years old. I will always protect and support him.
“For me, he is one of the best young players in the world. I will always protect him. His character and the way he behaves, sometimes he can make a mistake but I want him on the pitch and I want him next to me.”
It quickly became clear Stoke would pose little threat with Kane firing the home side ahead in the 13th minute when he drilled an angled shot beyond keeper Lee Grant after a mistake by Ryan Shawcross.
The 31st-minute second was even better. Christian Eriksen swung a corner out towards Kane who was lurking unmarked on the edge of the area and struck a bouncing ball on the full through a crowd of players and past Grant.
Six minutes later, the striker benefitted from a deflection after Eriksen rolled a free-kick to one side and Kane fired a low shot that deflected past Grant off the defensive wall.
Then in first half added time, Kane turned provider, bursting down the right and squaring for a grateful Alli when the forward might have gone for his fourth.
“We expected more than that,” said Hughes. “At times we were a little bit awestruck maybe. We gave them too much respect.”
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (3-4-2-1):
Lloris 7; Dier 7, Alderweireld 7 (Wimmer 48, 6), Vertonghen 7 (Winks 65, 6); Walker 7, Wanyama 7, Dembele 8, Davies 7; Alli 8, Eriksen 7; Kane 9 (Son 85, 6).
Subs not used:
Vorm, Trippier, Sissoko, Janssen.
STOKE CITY (4-2-3-1):
Grant 6; Bardsley 6, Shawcross 5, Martins Indi 4, Pieters 5; Whelan 6 (Cameron 81, 6), Adam 4 (Afellay 59, 6); Arnautovic 6, Allen 5, Sobhi 5; Crouch 7 (Berahino 59).
Subs not used:
Given, Muniesa, Imbula, Diouf.
Jon Moss 7
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