For those of you who opened this article just expecting to see the words ‘because he hasn’t won anything’…
I’m not in the business of making football about egos and, as my colleague Andy Headspeath articulated so perfectly, ‘a proxy for d*ck measuring’.
After Spurs were unceremoniously dumped out of the Europa League on Thursday by Dinamo Zagreb, losing 3-0 after extra-time and 3-2 on aggregate, there was bound to be a lot of finger-pointing. Jose Mourinho blamed Tottenham’s attitude. Hugo Lloris called the result a wider reflection of what was going on at the club. Social media somehow found a way to blame Harry Kane.
‘Doesn’t do it when it matters, ‘isn’t clutch’, ‘isn’t a winner’.
All sounds a bit ‘one season wonder’.
Football discourse in the social media era has become so tedious that a corner of the internet has desperately been trying to make it comparable to sports like basketball, emphasising on being ‘clutch’ and individuals willing their team to victory.
It’s eleven versus eleven, guys. It’s not as simple as that. ‘Being a winner’ is not more important than being a really good player.
It’s impossible to create a metric for being clutch in football. This tweet (and all of the replies to it missing the point) is proof of that.
Football is incredibly low-scoring compared to other sports where you can measure being clutch – you can look at a basketball player’s field-goal and free-throw percentages down the stretch in tight games in a five versus five match-up, you can look at a tennis player’s important points won against their overall tally in one versus one or two versus two.
The closest thing football has to these things are last minute goals and penalty shootouts, which are far from anything equivalent and aren’t useful in this context. A footballer can be ‘clutch’ and ‘a winner’ by what their honours list shows, but it won’t necessarily make them a good player.
You have to win a bloody lot of football matches to make it as a professional. The mindset of a top athlete is something that most of us will never be able to comprehend fully.
But fans’ obsession with ‘being a winner’ stretches to absurd lengths.
A section of Spurs supporters were so desperate to build a team of ‘winners’ that they were willing to count Matt Doherty’s League One and Championship titles with Wolves. Was that really important in the grand scheme of Tottenham’s season? Of course not.
Kane has been Spurs’ poster boy for over half a decade now, and having failed to win a trophy in that time, the blame has largely been placed at his door.
It’s Kane’s fault that he’s scored 214 goals for Tottenham – the second-highest tally in their history – and hasn’t won a trophy. It’s Kane’s fault he hasn’t always been surrounded with other top talent. It’s Kane’s fault he wasn’t born in Manchester, or Madrid, or Barcelona, and wasn’t picked up by a super club as a boy so that he could walk into cup-winning dynasties.
But if he were to move to Man City on July 31, score a tap-in to win the Community Shield on August 1, that changes his legacy forever. He went from a loser to a winner. Case closed.
Kane could stay at Tottenham and not win any silverware for the rest of his career or he could move to a super club and win the lot. Either way, he’s one of the three best players in Spurs’ history, claimed countless individual honours, would go down as an all-time great if he retired today, inspired and given amazing memories to millions of people, and earned millions of pounds in the process. I think he’s a ‘winner’ where it matters most.
Football discourse is becoming dumb. Don’t let it get any dumber.