Most of the anger was directed at head coach Nuno Espirito Santo and chairman Daniel Levy, but there were jeers for Kane when he wasted a good position in the second half, racing clear down the right flank before dinking an aimless ball towards nobody.
The boos marked a nadir of sorts for Kane at Tottenham and felt like further evidence of a broken club. But, just a few days later, the mood around Spurs and the perception of the club could scarcely be more different following the appointment of Antonio Conte. With Nuno in charge, Spurs appeared to be stuck in a state of paralysing drift and decline, with supporters either apathetic or angry — as Kane discovered.
Now, before Conte has even taken a training session, the club’s prospects have been transformed, the pressure on Levy has evaporated and supporters are wildly optimistic again. Everything about Tottenham, from the strength of the squad to their upcoming fixtures, seems suddenly bathed in a new and positive light.
This dramatic shift in perception also applies to Kane and to the club’s refusal to entertain selling their talisman in the summer.
Under Nuno, when everyone at Spurs was earnestly talking about starting a new cycle, you could reasonably argue that Spurs might have been better off trying to sell Kane and using the windfall to buy three or four talented young players. After all, what was the point in having a demotivated 28-year-old in his prime when Spurs were resigned to a long road back to the top?
Kane’s dismal form under Nuno — one goal in nine League games — added to the sense he might end up joining the long list of players the club missed a golden opportunity to sell, such as Dele Alli, Danny Rose or Eric Dier. But with Conte at the helm, that argument no longer stands up.
Spurs have one of the world’s best coaches and have pivoted overnight to targeting winning in the present, rather than peaking in two to three years’ time. Conte is not a manager who wants to build slowly from the bottom and, from day one, he will centre his team around Kane and Heung-min Son, who is also a world-class player. Spurs may even have found it impossible to attract the 52-year-old if they had sold Kane.
As for Kane, any thoughts he may have entertained last week about having outgrown the club or being somehow bigger than the head coach no longer apply. Conte’s arrival has changed the power dynamic and should immediately shake life back into Kane, even if he remains the club’s only senior striker.
Kane’s malaise under Nuno felt like a result of a number of factors, including fitness, motivation and the inability of the team to create any meaningful chances. Conte’s record suggests he will quickly solve these problems, and Spurs (and England) fans should be excited about the prospect of Kane working under the Italian.
At Inter Milan, Conte transformed Romelu Lukaku, so much so that the Belgian returned to Chelsea this summer looking and sounding like a completely different player. Conte also built a creative team around Lukaku, geared towards creating chances for him. Lukaku has credited Conte with “changing” him as a player and strengthening his mentality, while the 28-year-old’s physique and all-round game visibly improved.
Kane can expect the same attention to his own game and dramatic improvements around him. Lukaku scored 24 goals and notched 11 assists as Conte’s Inter won a first Serie A title in more than a decade last season and formed a devastating partnership with Lautaro Martinez. Kane and Son already have a telepathic understanding and are well-placed to replicate the success of Conte’s ‘La-Lu’ pairing.
Kane is hugely excited about working under Conte and the change in the club’s prospects could also impact his future. After trying to force his way out of the club in the summer, there were few reasons to think Kane would have changed his mind while Nuno was in charge.
But Conte’s appointment has put Spurs back on a positive trajectory and the new coach has the ability to take Kane’s game up another level and deliver the team trophies he craves.