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How will Harry Kane’s England debut compare to four modern greats?

by Andrew Boulton | March 24, 2015

Short of hurling the entire cast of ‘Mrs Brown’s Boys’ one by one into an active volcano, Harry Kane could not really have achieved much more this season. His reward for 26 goals in all competitions (including the boring bit of the Europe League which, strangely, is actually counted as a competition) will be to earn his first England cap, probably in this Friday’s Euro Qualifier against Lithuania.

But how will the greatest living Englishman since Tony from Hollyoaks get on? Will he join giants of the game like Darius Vassell and David Nugent and score on his debut? Or instead draw a blank like instantly forgotten clowns such as Ian Wright, Robbie Fowler and Gary Lineker? A quick look back at some of the debuts from this generation’s greatest forwards might give us a clue.

Alan Shearer vs France 1992

Despite looking like a man deep into forties, 21 year old Alan Shearer was picked by Graham Taylor in the hope he would prove a worthy successor to the increasingly achey-toed Lineker. Young Harold Kane should not be most impressed that Shearer scored on his debut, or that he did it against a France team that boasted Laurent Blanc, Didier Deschamps and Eric Cantona in their ranks. He should simply be relieved that, unlike Shearer, he does not have to make his England bow ahead of a midfield that could find room for both Neil Webb and Geoff Thomas.

Alan Shearer playing for England

Shearer’s goal aside, this game is probably most fondly remembered for Thomas hopelessly miscuing the simplest of chances as if his foot was made of day-old croissants. Oh, and the fact that Basil Boli (who a few months later would be planting his big French head into Stuart Pearce’s eye socket) found the time to chop Gary Linker up like a soft cheese.

Teddy Sheringham vs Poland 1993

Another Spurs hero, who at the time of his debut in 1993 was also the Premier League’s leading goalscorer. Sheringham’s fine form in the inaugural Premier League season earnt him his first cap, but did not translate into a terribly successful performance.

Teddy Sheringham

In fact it would be 8 games before Sheringham would get his first England goal. Instead what took place, aside from a drab 1-1 draw the contributed substantially to England’s bungled World Cup ‘94 qualification campaign, was the most ‘Graham Taylor’ substitution the game of football has ever seen: Paul Gascoigne off. Nigel Clough on. Do I not like… etc etc.

Michael Owen vs Chile 1998

Long before the days when Michael Owen would sooner motor-boat a racehorse’s substantial testicles than lace up his football boots, he was the bright new prospect for Glenn Hoddle’s pre-World Cup squad. Owen came off the bench in this largely unremarkable defeat to Chile at Wembley.

What made it anything other than entirely forgettable though was the fact that Marcelo Salas, who back then was about as good as twelve Falcao’s glued together with unicorn tears, made Sol Campbell look like an old dog chasing a helicopter.

Wayne Rooney vs Australia 2003

Like being sick directly into the pockets of a bouncer’s faux-leather jacket, this game is difficult to forget. Sven, at the time masquerading as a leading European coach, decided to make 11 substitutions at half time of this friendly at Upton Park – effectively taking a minimalist Swedish shit into the eyes and mouth of each and ever member of the 1966 World Cup winning squad. Or so the Daily Mail said.

Wayne Rooney

Rooney, at just 17 years and 111 days, came on in the mass substitution with England 2-0 down to a side that would have seriously considered giving twenty minutes to Todd from Neighbours (before, during and after he got ran over). Rooney looked impressive and combined with England’s other youngsters to provide a slightly more respectable second half performance.

In a curious twist, England’s only goal of the night went to another English debutant, Francis Jeffers. Which, if nothing else, is a stark lesson for Harry Kane about how quickly you can go from ‘wow, look at him’ to ‘mummy, why’s that man shouting at the ducks?’.

Will Harry give Lithuania a Kane-ing with the first goal at 5/2?
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