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England’s Soccer Captain Fires Back at the Country’s Top TV Sports Pundit

SportEngland’s Soccer Captain Fires Back at the Country’s Top TV Sports Pundit

Harry Kane has responded to Gary Lineker’s criticism of England’s Euro 2024 campaign by saying former national team players have a “responsibility” to consider the impact of their words.

England came in for scrutiny following a 1-1 draw with Denmark in their second Euro 2024 group fixture, with former striker Lineker calling the performance “s***”.

Kane said while he understood pundits had a duty to be honest, he added former players should be aware of the challenges of representing England given the nation’s historic and persistent failures at major tournaments.

Asked specifically about Lineker’s comments, Kane replied: “What ex-players have to realise is that it is very hard not to listen to it now, especially for some players who are not used to it or who are new to the environment.

“I always feel like they have a responsibility. I know they have got to be honest and give their opinion but they also have a responsibility as an ex-England player that a lot of players looked up to. People do care about what they say and people do listen to them.

“Everyone has got their opinion but the bottom line is we have not won anything as a nation for a long, long time and a lot of these players were part of that as well, so they know how tough it is.

“It is not digging anyone out. It is just the reality that they know that it is tough to play in these major tournaments and tough to play for England.

“I would never disrespect any player. All I would say is remember what it is like to wear the shirt and that their words are listened to. You do hear it.

“We all want to win a major tournament. Being as helpful as they can and building the lads up with confidence would be a much better way of going about it.”

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Lineker, 63, scored 48 times in 80 appearances for England between 1984 and 1992. He won the Golden Boot at the 1986 World Cup and was part of the England side that reached the World Cup semi-finals at Italia 90.

Following England’s draw with Denmark, Lineker told the Rest is Football podcast: “I think we have to reflect the mood of the nation. I can’t imagine anyone who is English would have enjoyed that performance because it was lethargic, it was dour. You can think of all sorts of words and expletives if you like, but it was s***. ”

Kane scored his first goal of the Euros against Denmark, but admitted he personally had been below par in the opening two games.

“I try and stay off it (seeing and reading media criticism) as much as possible,” he added. “I think it’s almost impossible not to see some stuff nowadays with all the different platforms.

“Me as a player, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion and I know when major tournament football is on it’s always going to be heightened, performance is going to be scrutinised. If I’m honest with myself … have I played the best that I know I can? No.

“But I didn’t score in the group stage at the World Cup, I didn’t score in the group stage at the Euros. So from my point of view, it’s a bonus to be one goal ahead. I’d always judge myself first and I know I can play better and I know a lot of players in the team think the same – that we can all play a little bit better. That’s what I do. I don’t panic. I don’t get too high or too low. I’ll keep doing what I do and just go onto the next one.”


Kane is expecting England to improve at Euro 2024 (Stefan Matzke – sampics/Corbis via Getty Images)

Kane was substituted in the second half of England’s draw against Denmark, having missed the conclusion of the German domestic season due to a back injury.

Although there has been concerns over the 30-year-old’s fitness, he insisted he is feeling fresh with no injury concerns.

“I thought the preparation leading up to the tournament was good for me personally,” Kane said. “Even the games in the tournament, the first game, I felt as fit as I have all season. Of course, I know I came off in the second game but that was down to the manager wanting to see (something) different, maybe freshen up the front players especially.

“From my point of view, I’m fit, getting better and better each game and getting fitter. I’ve spoken in previous tournaments about the same thing, about trying to make sure you’re coming into your peak towards the most important part of the tournament, which is the knockouts.

“As always, time will tell. If we get knocked out then a lot of questions will be asked but from my point of view, I think going into this knockout stage (it’s important) you’re feeling 100 per cent and I feel I’m there.”

Gareth Southgate’s side are preparing for their final Group C clash against Slovenia on Tuesday and currently sit top on four points.

Following the Denmark draw, Southgate said England were not at the “physical level” to press high up the pitch.

Kane suggested England’s struggled with pressing came from playing against a back three against both Serbia and Denmark. Slovenia have lined up in a back four in their opening two group stage matches, and the England captain said he hoped his side could produce a more energetic display.

“I think both games playing against the back three caused us a bit of confusion on the pitch,” he said. “We’d prepared before the game. But then I just think there were certain things where we couldn’t quite get the pressure that we wanted and we weren’t 100 per cent sure about when to go and it’s hard.

“I don’t think we were great with the ball which then led to feeling like you’re just running and constantly running. So it was tough to turn that momentum around. I think in the next game, I think it will pose a different threat because of the formation … it’s more likely going to be different from Slovenia. Hopefully we can show a bit more energy and enthusiasm, especially without the ball and I think that will help us with the ball as well.”

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Southgate feels England are too tired to press – is he right?


What we learned from Kane’s punchy performance

Harry Kane walked into the England media room at Blankenhain Castle, won a darts match, sat down, answered questions, took a swig of water and then left.

But the bit in between, where the England captain spent 40 minutes setting the record straight from the camp’s perspective, was unusually illuminating.

It was decided on Sunday morning that Kane would would be the player to speak at the open press conference, part of a wider Football Association strategy when it comes to which voices are heard and at what moment, with Kane being more than happy to take on the responsibility.

The Athletic analyses what he said and what it meant

England’s critics

“The bottom line is we haven’t won anything as a nation for a long, long time and a lot of these players were part of that. They know how tough it is,” Kane said in reference to Lineker’s jibe.

Lineker was not the only pundit to criticise England’s display against Denmark but, as the face of football coverage for the United Kingdom’s national broadcaster, his words carry more significance than most.

Kane, while remaining respectful and putting in multiple caveats, clearly wanted to stick up for the squad following the negativity levelled at them.

His own fitness

“I felt as fit as I have all season. I know I came off in the second game, but that was down to the manager wanting to see something different and freshening up the front players. It is important to go into this knockout stage feeling 100 per cent and I feel I am there.”

Kane was quick to dispel the notion that he is not fully fit, having missed Bayern Munich’s final game of the season with a back injury.

He has looked off the pace in England’s opening two matches at Euro 2024, but sought to reassure supporters that there is no need to be concerned about his fitness levels.


Kane was withdrawn against Denmark (Ralf Ibing – firo sportphoto/Getty Images)

Tactical struggles in opening games

“I just think both games playing against the back three caused us a bit of confusion on the pitch. We’d prepared before the game. But then I just think there were certain things where we couldn’t quite get the pressure that we wanted and we weren’t 100 per cent sure about when to go and it’s hard.”

After the Denmark match, Kane said the players didn’t know when they should have been pressing. It was a damning revelation. And he has now added a bit more context to that assessment, noting how it was playing against a back three that disrupted the forward line’s triggers. Playing against Slovenia’s likely back four should ease that problem.

Keeping ‘calm’ and carrying on

“I think we are calm. A lot of us have been here and done it and we’ve given England fans some fantastic times. I know 99 per cent (of fans) are fully behind us. Then after the tournament you can judge us.”

The word ‘calm’ was used by Kane three times in the space of as many answers at his press conferences.

The message coming out of the England camp post-Denmark is that, although the performances have been drab, they are staying relaxed – or trying to. Kane reiterated that message on Sunday, urging supporters to save their final judgement until when the Three Lions’ tournament ends.

(Richard Pelham/Getty Images)

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