Walthamstow's finest: Harry Kane for Spurs. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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All the Spurs players are heroes but Harry is different: he’s a local hero

What does it mean to sign a local lad?

Gosh, it was so exciting, I felt giddy – Spurs stuffing Chelsea 5-3, Harry for England and St George. There are those alive who will remember for ever this St Crispin’s Day, I mean New Year’s Day, here we go, here we go, England must call soon, and then Real Madrid and then Mars. No wonder so many women have been sending urgent messages to young Harry: “Will you marry me, you absolutely bloody fuckin’ marvel!”

The story, in simple terms, is that Harry Edward Kane, aged 21, having been at Spurs almost all his life and been loaned out loads of times, just when it looked as if he would never ever make it at Spurs, has suddenly come good – scoring six goals in his previous six games, bagging two against Chelsea and winning a penalty.

He’s not particularly brilliant at any one thing – not all that fast, not all that tricky, average at dead balls – just good at all aspects and, in recent months, getting better at all of them, too. Hence he has tremendous confidence and works ever so hard, now scoring for fun, come on, my son.

But the really unusual thing about Harry is summed up by the chant that the Spurs crowd now shouts: “HE’S ONE OF OUR OWN, HE’S ONE OF OUR OWN, HARRY KANE, HE’S ONE OF OUR OWN.”

The home crowd took to him early in the season, while the manager was still clearly in two minds about him, for the simple reason that he is a local lad, born in Walthamstow, and is a trier. Being called Harry also helps – always a popular name, from ’Arry Redknapp to Prince Harry, easy to shout, easy to spell.

He does look English, with that fair hair neatly parted, square if rather lopsided jaw, nothing flash or showy, but in fact he is not totally English – he could have played for the Republic of Ireland as his dad was born in Galway. He chose England, and did well with the under-21s.

Is that Harry chant they now sing racist in any way – picking out for applause someone on the basis that he’s one of us (ie, not a bleedin’ foreigner)? Could Ukip take it up?

Like all Prem teams these days, Spurs is foreign-dominated and has a foreign manager. Perhaps the reason the Argentinian Pochettino was so slow to promote him was that when he arrived he didn’t recognise Harry’s east London accent, assuming he was just another foreigner, not one of those long-suffering locals out there in the crowd, desperate after all these years to have a local hero. It was definitely thanks to the crowd support that the cult and progress of Harry took off.

It is unusual for a local lad, let alone an English lad, to come all the way through the ranks and make it in the Prem. We footer fans of a certain age go on all the time about the West Ham FA Cup-winning team back in 1975 – the last all-English team to win the Cup, most of them from London or Essex – or the Celtic team that won the European Cup in Lisbon in 1967, totally comprised of players born in the Celtic dressing room, sorry, within the sound of Bow Bells, sorry again, wrong city, anyway they were all local lads, born within ten miles of Celtic Park. Incredible. Oh, those were the days, when every player was one of our own.

Which is, in fact, bollocks, fantasy and romance. That idyllic state of affairs has rarely ever existed, not since English professional football began in 1885. Clubs were quickly scouting all over the land, bribing players with sovereigns in their boots to leave their home team. In those days foreigners usually meant Scotsmen. Now they scout the whole world, not just the mines of Lanarkshire.

I am always asking Spurs fans how many players in the Spurs 1901 Cup-winning team came from London and the Home Counties. Go on, guess. The answer is none. Five were Scottish, two Welsh, one Irish, and the three English players came from Cumberland, the Potteries and Grantham, the nearest place to London.

So, we do have to treasure Harry while we can. Coming from Walthamstow! That’s almost like being born in White Hart Lane. 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 08 January 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Churchill Myth

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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.