England alarm bells ringing over Harry Kane fatigue as World Cup challenge looms

England alarm bells ringing over Harry Kane fatigue as World Cup challenge looms

Gareth Southgate’s stress levels will jump up a couple of notches when he digs into the detail of Harry Kane’s fatigue concerns.

The England boss will have had no worries at all today over naming Tottenham star Kane as his World Cup captain, because the 29-year-old is injury-free.

Southgate’s heart will start to beat that bit faster, though, when he examines Kane’s shattered state. Antonio Conte had promised he would find a way to hand Kane the odd rest in the helter-skelter build-up to the Qatar World Cup.

Instead, Kane has started every Tottenham game this season — the only player to achieve what currently represents an unwanted feat. That is 21 games in just 71 days, with a likely 22nd match in three days’ time in Saturday’s final Premier League clash before the World Cup, at home against Leeds. Kane has also played more minutes — 1,847 — than anyone else in the top-flight this season.

Spurs crashed out of the Carabao Cup with a limp 2-0 loss to a much-changed Nottingham Forest at the City Ground, with Kane looking leggy at best. Conte revealed afterwards that Kane pulled up in training on Tuesday due to fatigue, but Spurs’ taskmaster boss hailed his prolific striker “a good man” for playing.

Fatigued: Harry Kane started against Nottingham Forest despite a lack of rest at Spurs (REUTERS)
Fatigued: Harry Kane started against Nottingham Forest despite a lack of rest at Spurs (REUTERS)

Kane would always make himself available, out of sheer duty. But perhaps Conte misplaced his own duty of care. Kane pulling up in training with fatigue might have been his way of asking not to play at Forest.

Kane is, of course, extremely well remunerated for his time with Spurs. He is also, of course, on the club clock this week. It is entirely in no one’s interests, however, for Kane to develop any kind of fitness — or worse, injury issue — in this week of all weeks.

Kane understandably played within himself at Forest, leaving the entire enterprise of his participation a seemingly unnecessary gamble. England will open their World Cup campaign against Iran in just 11 days.

So Kane has less than two weeks to play against Leeds, jet out to Qatar, complete all preparatory commitments with the national side — and also grab some rest. Let us hope England give their talisman a lie-flat seat for the seven-hour flight.

Conte’s punishing pre-season was designed to put the fitness equivalent of money in the bank for Spurs’ players for the back end of the campaign.

Kane needs a freshness top-up now though, as he tiptoes through these last few Premier League days. Neither Richarlison nor Dejan Kulusevski was fit enough to start at Forest, where Renan Lodi and Jesse Lingard grabbed the goals to dump Spurs out of the League Cup.

Conte hopes to have both players ready to start against Leeds, but after starting every other game it would seem unlikely for Kane not to be involved again on Saturday. Conte has plenty of previous when it comes to making points on squad depth to club boards through selection. Surely fielding Kane at Forest did not fall into that category.

Kane is heavily fatigued less than a week before England head off for World Cup glory

The Italian clearly wants Spurs to dip into the transfer market in January for further reinforcements. But Spurs’ attacking cupboard is hardly bare. Heung-min Son and Lucas Moura were missing through injury, while Richarlison and Kulusevski featured. Kane is the jewel in that offensive crown, and finding a striker of high quality prepared to understudy the England captain will always prove a tall order.

Southgate himself and every England supporter will hope that the balance in all this comes via sports science’s red zone. Conditioning coaches across the world scrutinise players’ data in a bid to reduce the chances of injury. That red zone is the point at which a player’s overall output across a period of time pushes them into risk of harm.

Tottenham’s scientists will be on top of this, and must have considered Kane’s levels to be within the requisite safety range. Spurs will not take risks here, and yet, Kane is heavily fatigued less than a week before England head off for World Cup glory.