CITIZEN KANE LEADS THE WAY
Following his virtuoso performance against Chelsea in Tottenham’s 5-3 New Year’s Day mauling of the Blues, Harry Kane was lauded as English soccer’s next great hope as Spurs fans rejoiced in his clinical finishing. Kane scored twice against Chelsea, an assist and won a penalty kick, as his pace, power and sheer exuberance saw him run rings around two of the best central defenders in the Premier League. Tottenham are now unbeaten in seven games and sit in fifth place, three points off Manchester United in third as Kane’s goals suddenly have them back in the thick of the top four hunt.
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Cautious optimism has been replaced by full-blown euphoria, as Kane was the subject of plenty of internet memes depicting him as Jesus Christ, Superman and Orson Welles. Kane-mania is in overdrive, as despite Jose Mourinho’s moaning about referee Phil Dowd, Kane was the real reason Chelsea lost for just the second time this season as their defense was blown away.
However, it is worth remembering that Kane hadn’t started a PL game this season until Nov. 9 and was finding it hard to break into Mauricio Pochettino’s team for league games despite excelling in both the League Cup and Europa League for most of the current campaign. Let’s remind ourselves of Pochettino’s comments after Kane came off the bench to fire Spurs to victory at Aston Villa last November. Tottenham’s manager admitted he was under pressure to play Kane from Spurs’ fans.
“He is English, he is young and from the Tottenham academy so it is normal. If we were in Argentina, he was an Argentine player and playing with two foreign strikers, it would always be a sensitive situation. We understand he is a special player for Tottenham and for our supporters. My decision (on team selection) is always about my analysis on the training and after to give the balance to the team and our performance.”
Ever since Pochettino’s admission, the lad from Walthamstow can’t stop scoring and has six goals in his last six games. Through Kane’s superb performances in cup competitions, lackluster displays from Spurs other strikers and a clamber for his inclusion by home fans, the young Englishman has jumped up the pecking order to become somewhat of a cult hero at White Hart Lane.
Kane, 21, is a local lad from north London who has come up through the ranks at Spurs to jump ahead of $40 million signing Roberto Soldado and PL veteran Emmanuel Adebayor. Pochettino has simply been forced to play Kane, as the England U-21 international has scored 17 goals across all competitions this season and has eight goals in 10 games for England’s junior team. Only one PL player, Sergio Ageuro, has scored more goals than him this term, as he has bulldozed his way into the spotlight with that slick hairdo a Brylcreem model would be proud of.
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With the English national team surely the next port of call for Kane (he has surely jumped ahead of the likes of Rickie Lambert, Saido Berahino, Andy Carroll and others with his recent heroics) don’t expect the man they call “Hurricane” Harry to calm down anytime soon. There’s a storm brewing at the Lane as the people’s champion is grabbing his chance to impress with both hands.
Over the past week, three Premier League teams have lost their managers as ‘squeaky bum time’ arrived over the festive period and some Chairman had seen enough. Neil Warnock was the first to go after Crystal Palace slipped into the bottom three, then Alan Irvine was sacked at West Brom following their alarming slide after a lackluster start to the campaign.
Then, Alan Pardew left Newcastle off his own accord… to take the vacant position at Palace. Ex-Palace manager Tony Pulis took over at West Brom and Newcastle is the odd-man out as they no longer have a manager.
[ RELATED: Latest PL standings ]
Let’s focus on Pardew arriving at Palace. The 53-year-old has had plenty of abuse during his time in charge of Newcastle, as it has only been a few months since SackPardew.com and mass public protests against him and owner Mike Ashley were commonplace among Magpies fans.
Since then, Pardew guided Newcastle back into the top 10 of the PL and Newcastle were assured of a comfortable season battling it out for a Europa League spot at best and an 11th place finish at worst. So, why would Pardew leave a huge club he had been at for four years to join Palace, who are languishing in the bottom three and have never previously spent more than two consecutive seasons in the PL? Well, it’s home.
Of course, there are other factors which go into this decision but Pardew is a south Londoner, he played for Palace 128 times from 1987-91 and was part of a famous run to the FA Cup final where they lost to Manchester United in a replay in 1990 after, you guessed it, Pardew scored the extra-time winner against Liverpool in the semifinal.
Will he now get a storybook career as a manger with Palace to emulate the one he had as a player? Pardew must get financial backing from the board to bring in the players he needs.
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But after watching his coaching session closely while he was at Southampton many years ago, I’ve seen Pardew work meticulously with his defense and overall shape of the team as he was relentless in drilling home his point about solidity and flexibility in formations.
At Palace, he has players at his disposal who are already used to defending as a unit and Pardew knows he has to evolve their style slowly in order to be a success. With Palace sitting in the bottom three, he can’t run before he can walk, but he has big plans for the Eagles.
“What I would like to achieve in my time here is to build a football club that has progressed,” Pardew said. “I managed to do that at Southampton and Newcastle. I took those club’s forward from what I went in to. My experiences at West Ham United, where I was able to do that, and not so good memories Charlton, unfortunately, those lessons learned have held me in good stead for me to be able to do that here.”
GERRARD’S DECISION PRESERVES LEGACY
Steven Gerrard looks likely to be heading to the LA Galaxy (where will he fit in? PST’s Andy Edwards tackles that) as the Liverpool skipper will not sign a new deal at his hometown club and has confirmed the next chapter in his career will be spent in the United States. A massive surprise, as Liverpool’s inspirational captain has called it quits.
Gerrard, 34, showed against AFC Wimbledon on Monday in the FA Cup that class remains. Scoring twice to silence all of the talk around his decision to walk away from the only club he has ever known proved his class. Gerrard will walk away from Anfield at the end of the 2014-15 season as a club legend. He is also a legendary figure for the Premier League, the English national team and his legacy will live on for decades to come. Here’s much more on his incredible career to date and how he is thought of in England.
TOP CLUBS AVOID FA CUP UPSETS
The magic of the FA Cup almost brought plenty of upsets, but some of the Premier League’s big boys held their nerves to overcome lower-league opposition.
Liverpool, as we mentioned, were indebted to Gerrard as his two goals cancelled out Adebayo Akinfenwa’s equalizer as the 224-pound striker (that’s how much he weights, not how much he cost…) threatened to cause a shock of epic proportions in the third round. Like Liverpool, Manchester City and Stoke City were also struggling against lower-league teams as two James Milner goals overturned a lead at the Etihad Stadium for Sheffield Wednesday, while a late rally from Stoke saw them surge past Conference Premier (fifth tier) side Wrexham as they came within 10 minutes of beating a PL side on their own pitch.
The fourth round draw sees Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United head to the lowest-ranked team left in the competition, Cambridge United. Can the Red Devils shake avoid another potential banana skin after edging past Yeovil Town in the third round?
It was FA Cup weekend, so no PL games, but the Americans Abroad were still in action. Geoff Cameron and Stoke City beat Wrexham as Cameron returned to midfield after deputizing for the injured Phil Bardsley at right back over the festive season.
Tim Howard is still out with a calf injury and is not expected back until February at the earliest, while Brad Guzan was given the weekend off as he watched on from the bench as Aston Villa beat Blackpool 1-0 thanks to a late Christian Benteke strike. Jozy Altidore did not suit up for Sunderland as Gus Poyet did not name the USMNT striker in his 18-man squad in their 1-0 win over Leeds United. Altidore, 25, is widely expected to move on from the Stadium of Light this January. God speed, wherever you end up, Jozy.
Premier League Playback comes out every Monday as PST’s Editor and Lead Writer takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here.