WE’RE going to start this column with a question. And once you’ve read it, don’t think too deeply, say the first two names that come into your head. If you were picking an all-time Premier League XI, who would be your two strikers?

Right. I’m guessing if you’re a Newcastle United fan, Alan Shearer probably went straight into the team. Even if you’re not of a black-and-white persuasion, there’s still a good chance Shearer’s name might have leapt to mind. Wayne Rooney? Another forward who starred with club and country. Thierry Henry? Almost certainly a popular choice. Dennis Bergkamp? Perhaps. Sergio Aguero? Ruud van Nistelrooy? Mo Salah?

The one name I’m guessing you didn’t suggest – and, admittedly, the research for this was drawn from a fairly small sample of fellow pubgoers watching England beat Italy last night and Northern Echo coworkers in the office this morning – is that of Harry Kane. For whatever reason, Kane just doesn’t seem to feature in conversations about the greatest striker of the Premier League era, and to my mind, that’s just plain wrong. Having established himself, statistically at least, as England’s leading goalscorer of all time last night, Kane must be wondering what else he has to do to start getting the recognition he surely deserves.

Let’s take the numbers for a start. Kane’s 54 goals for his country have come with a better goals-to-game ratio than any other England player from the last 50 years. Only Jimmy Greaves finished his international career with more than 30 goals at a better rate, and unlike a number of his predecessors, Kane has scored a fair proportion of his goals in the biggest games and at the most crucial of moments. Think of the last-gasp volley to avoid defeat to Scotland, the winner against Croatia that took England through to the finals of the Nations League, the decisive extra-time strike against Denmark that took Gareth Southgate’s side into the final of the Euros. Massive goals in massive games.

In the space of four major tournaments, Kane has scored more goals at World Cups and European Championships than any other England player, and given that he does not turn 30 until July, there is every chance he will finish his career with a goals total that will be pretty much impossible to beat. 60? Almost certainly. 80? Every chance. 100? Unlikely, but at this stage, impossible to conclusively rule out.

The Northern Echo: England captain Harry KaneEngland captain Harry Kane (Image: PA)

Domestically, Kane stands in third position on the Premier League’s all-time list, four goals behind Rooney, who is second, and 56 adrift of Shearer, who stands on top of the pile. Provided he remains fit for the majority of the remainder of his career, and continues to play his club football in his homeland, he will surely eclipse Newcastle’s all-time record goalscorer at some stage in the not-too-distant future.

Yet Kane’s brilliance extends to far more than a list of numbers on a goalscoring chart. He is a shining example of a player who has had to battle his way to the top, and who has given everything to extract the absolute maximum from his talents. His career started with relatively unsuccessful loan spells at Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester, and he had to bide his time before getting a chance with his boyhood club. In an era when players are increasingly fast-tracked for success in state-of-the-art academies, Kane is a product of the school of hard knocks.

He has adapted his game when needed, transforming himself from a youthful number ten into a potent number nine and then, in the last few years, reversing the trend somewhat to become a playmaker as well as a goalscorer with Spurs. He is an exemplary team player, as illustrated by his stellar defensive work as England were hanging on in the final stages in Naples, and has skippered both his club and country with authority and dignity for most of the last decade.

So why do his achievements tend to be downplayed? Perhaps the fact that he is still playing now is a factor, and it would be nice to think that Kane’s status might be upgraded once he hangs up his boots and retires. There is always a tendency to hark back to golden moments in the past, and when it comes to both England and Spurs, Kane’s value might only be truly appreciated once he is no longer leading the line, finding the back of the net on a regular basis.

Kane’s lack of honours is often held against him, in the same way that Shearer’s solitary Premier League title is used by some to mark down his achievements. Kane has come closer to leading England to a major trophy than anyone in five decades though, and it is hardly his fault that he has spent the vast majority of his club career playing for a Tottenham team that has flattered to deceive. If anything, his goalscoring heroics should surely be marked up because he has not been playing for a Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal side that have been sweeping all before them.

Finally, we come to the criticism of Kane’s style, and perhaps this gets to the nub of why his brilliance is downplayed. Kane has lived through an era when the goalscoring number nine has gone out of fashion. He is a poacher in a world of artists, and so he is accused of relying on penalties, deflections and tap-ins while other, less effective, players are lauded for rewriting the footballing playbook.

That, quite frankly, is nonsense. Kane’s skills might hark back to the greats of the past, but there will always be a place for them in the present and future. An all-time Premier League XI? Kane’s would be the first name on my list.