The Kane vs. Shearer debate is one that the media can finally get their teeth stuck into. Arguably, Kane is the first challenger to Alan Shearer’s all time goalscoring record that can be taken seriously.
Wayne Rooney showed promise and there were those who thought he could do it. Thierry Henry and Sergio Agüero proved themselves able but neither saw their peak years stretch far enough. Although the latter is still a regular goalscorer in the Premier League, his hopes seem too far gone at the age of 32, with injury problems increasing. The reality is nobody has yet been able to even truly enter the conversation over Alan Shearer’s all time record of 260 goals in the English top flight. Until now.
Harry Kane’s late winner for Tottenham Hotspur at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, immediately celebrated for more important reasons as it took Jose Mourinho’s side to the league’s summit, saw him reach 150 strikes. The post-match discourse was ,and has since been, dominated by whispers that the current England captain could usurp the former as statistically the greatest striker in English football’s recent history.
Shearer, who has regularly been asked about the chances of Kane and has been kind in his assessment, was in the Match of the Day 2 studio to discuss the crossing of the Spurs man’s latest milestone. Ian Wright, the other half of their rather endearing and hilarious double act, could barely stomach seeing the evidence that Shearer is still setting the bar slightly above Kane’s current goal rate. At Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United, he took 212 games to reach 150 goals; Kane is running six games behind, with Agüero one ahead of him.
The buzz is understandable; Shearer does, at the very least, have a very capable challenger for his crown. But Kane is hardly closing in; he still has another 110 goals to go, a total that equates to a superb Premier League career for anyone who reaches it. Having just turned 27, time is certainly on his side, but he still needs to average over 22 goals for the next five years to run close, and that is without serious injury. Hamstring trouble kept him out for much of this calendar year but he has never faced the issues Shearer, who, still managed to reach an unassailable total, did. Cruciate and ankle ligament injuries, and tendonitis, didn’t stunt his progress.
Rooney is currently second on the list with 208 but his position was inconsistent and he had fallen away from the elite level by the age of 33. Shearer was still challenging for Golden Boots at that age. Nobody else in Premier League history has ever surpassed the double century; that has to be Kane’s first aim and seems realistic enough to suggest he will probably become a third member of that exclusive club very soon.
Looking at the career trajectories of Kane and Shearer may offer the chaser some hope. He was younger when he really began hitting serious numbers consistently; scoring over 15 Premier League goals since 2014/15, when he was 21. Shearer was 22 in the league’s inaugural season at Blackburn. This race will only intensify if Kane can match Shearer’s rate into his 30s, when Newcastle were challenging for Champions League places. Between 2001 and 2004, he scored 62 goals for the Magpies, only really dropping off at the age of 34, when he had initially suggested he would retire before prolonging his career by a further season.
His numbers at St James’ Park are impressive because he maintained his level with age, while adapting his game after injury but it is at Blackburn where he really set the standard. Not only did he win a league title, something Kane could very easily do either at Spurs or if he chooses to go elsewhere, but he surpassed the 30-goal mark three years running between 1994 and 1996. He set the record for the most goals in a 38-game season, matching Andy Cole’s 34 in a 42-game campaign at Newcastle.
Kane has only scored 30 or more once. Cold, hard maths make it difficult for him to match Shearer with current projections. But the point is that it is possible and far from out of the realms of possibility; given how Shearer has been the only striker to remain consistent for more than a decade, that is impressive in itself.
Comparisons, and the need to crown one player better than another, is a rather annoying theme in the social media age of football fandom. The truth of the matter is, neither Kane or Shearer will feel any sense of rivalry. This phenomenon, peddled by YouTube fan shows and ‘Football Twitter’, plus recency bias, has seen Shearer denounced by some; the simple matter of that fact is there are thousands who are unfortunate enough to only see him as a statistic and someone frozen in time, rather than the warrior and freak of goalscoring nature he truly was.
It is more pertinent to say that one has finally emerged as an heir to the other, for club and country; they are similar players, but equally differ with strengths that match their era. Both were (are) big, strong and possessive of a knack for positioning and timing, which allowed them to score all types of goals; but where Shearer relied on power, Kane is more deft and adept in dropping deep to help out in midfield from time to time. Though, it must be stressed, neither trait belonged to one and not the other.
Debate and discussion is part of football; it is what keeps the business churning. The all time Premier League goalscoring record has been off limits in that regard for so long because Shearer has been in a league of his own. It is entirely possible that nobody will ever surpass him, but Harry Kane is his first genuine rival, even if the target may be slightly out of reach.
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