Harry Kane hits back at ex-player critics and brings up their past England failures

Harry Kane has hit back at Gary Lineker by saying that pundits and former players need to show more responsibility, remember that they wore the shirt and were part of England’s ­failures at previous tournaments.

Lineker, who is the lead anchor of the BBC’s coverage of Euro 2024, has caused a stir within the England camp after describing the team’s performance against Denmark as “shit” on the podcast The Rest is Football. Alan Shearer and Rio Ferdinand have also delivered withering assessments of Gareth Southgate’s side, who face Slovenia in their final Group C match on Tuesday, and the tone of the criticism has left Kane unimpressed.

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England’s captain, who was singled out by Lineker after struggling against Denmark and Serbia, spoke up for the squad and led by example when he told the former profes­sionals to keep in mind the impact of their words on younger players.

“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,” Kane said.

“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.”

Kane was too respectful to point out that Lineker played for England sides that went out of the first round at Euro 88 and 92. Shearer captained the team that made an early exit at Euro 2000, while the “golden generation” that included Ferdinand failed to qualify for Euro 2008. Southgate has taken England to a semi-final, a final and a quarter-final in their pre­vious three tournaments.

England, who have won nothing since 1966, will progress to the last 16 in first place if they beat Slovenia and Kane is confident there will be an improvement. Southgate is expected to make tweaks to his starting XI, with Trent Alexander-Arnold likely to drop out in midfield and Anthony Gordon in contention to replace Phil Foden on the left. Kieran Trippier, who is monitoring a minor calf complaint, is expected to be fit enough to fill in again for Luke Shaw at left-back.

The noise around the team is becoming difficult to manage, however, to the extent that Kane considered what he would be like if he moved into the media after retiring. “Maybe when I’m 40 or 50 I’ll be on one of those shows trying to dig ­players out – I hope I’m not,” he said.

Kane has not reached out to any of the pundits to request more understanding. “I don’t think there’s a need for it at the moment,” he said. “With podcasts and things like that people are trying to promote their own channels. People will do things for their own gain, but we try to ignore it.”

Kane said the players were allowed to spend time with their loved ones on Friday and that some squad members felt such visits were too long. “The day after the game was just a small debrief like we always do from the manager and then it was just a family day,” Kane said. “We had seven hours with the family, which I’m not sure all the lads were happy about after a few hours. It was pretty hectic, to be fair. We might cut that down in the future.”

Entertainment including bouncy castles was laid on. Kane said the chance to “switch off” in the company of loved ones was important. “They are a huge part and you do miss them during long spells away so it was a fun day – just maybe a bit too long.”