One of the turning points in Harry Kane’s career came a few weeks into my first season as Tottenham manager.
I had started with Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado as our two first-choice strikers — great players, senior players, and deserving of respect. Harry was only starting in the Europa League. On September 18, we played at Partizan Belgrade, but Harry struggled and we drew 0-0. Three days later, when we played West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League, I didn’t even put him on the bench.
That week, Harry came to see me and my coaching staff. He thought he deserved to play more.
We showed Harry, with video clips and with stats, that he was wrong. We showed him running stats, the positioning of shots, everything we could find. Because if a player has played poorly, it’s important for them to realise why we as coaches think they have.
We had to show Harry he still needed to improve in different areas. He was heading in the right direction, but he still needed to wait and to prove to us he was better than his team-mates and that he deserved to start. He needed to prove we could trust him like we trusted the more experienced strikers.
It was a really tough conversation, but it was also a really good conversation.
Players never want to be told the truth. And from my perspective, it’s never easy when you have to tell a player that they’re wrong. But it was a really valuable conversation between Harry, my assistant coach Jesus Perez, and me, trying to help him by being tough on him.
The most important thing for me and my staff was to judge exactly the right moment when Harry — or any younger player — would be ready to play for Tottenham.
That is such an important decision, to get the timing exactly right and not to rush it. Because if you rush a player, when they’re not ready, their performances will not be at the right level and that is a risk. When you do put them in, you have to support them to play every single game, to get the experience and to feel the confidence that even if they make a mistake you will still support them.
In September 2014, we did not think Harry was ready just yet.