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

Photo: Getty
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Tail docking is described as “barbaric” – so why did the SNP vote to bring it back?

The decision by the SNP to permit the docking of puppies' tails seems bizarre - until you consider the party's divided loyalties.

As Holyrood votes go, it probably doesn't get more emotive than the decision to lift the ban on tail docking - a procedure carried out on three-day-old puppies which involves crushing cartilage, nerves and bone without anaesthetic, and which campaigners have called "barbaric".

The reasoning is that these "working" dogs, flushing out animals to be shot on Scotland's vast hunting estates, can injure their long tails. The British Veterinary Association disagrees, saying the procedure inflicts significant pain and deprives dogs of a "vital form of canine expression". 

So why has the Scottish National Party, with its left-wing rhethoric and substantial block of left-leaning newer members, voted through such a deeply controversial proposal?

One clue is to be found in 2014-15 - not the independence referendum, but the push for land reform which followed it. The extraordinary concentration of land ownership in Scotland - around 430 families or companies own half of the private land - became a touchstone issue for independence campaigners. After September 2014, many transferred their enthusiasm to this issue, demanding a new bill that would kickstart land reform after a decade in the long grass.

This presented a real problem for the SNP. In its longheld tactic of appealing to both left and right, rich and poor, the land issue showed up the cracks. While the new First Minister made rash promises of "radical" reform in November 2015, her cabinet nevertheless included Fergus Ewing, a centre-right politician with links to the landed estates and rural lobby. 
 
Pictures of Ewing clad in tweed alongside gamekeepers at a PR stunt caused some of the party's new membership a twinge of unease. Unedifying rows over fracking, which highlighted Ewing's relationship with the Duke of Buccleuch, did not help. While much was made of the SNP's 56 MPs opposing fox hunting at Westminster, Ewing opposed a Scottish ban more than a decade before
  
Before the SNP made its unprecedented break into the Labour strongholds of the west of Scotland and central belt, the party's support was concentrated in the largely rural east. Perthshire, Banff and Buchan, Moray are places where people voted Tory in the past - and indeed, turned blue once more this June. Not that such a swing can be said to have come entirely from SNP voters. Nevertheless, it does highlights another side of SNP membership that is often forgotten about. "It's said that there are two SNPs," said Professor Ailsa Henderson, professor of political science at the University of Edinburgh. "An SNP voter in Govan is perceived to have a very different profile than another in Perthshire". 
 
This project to appeal to all Scotland - particularly noticeable during Alex Salmond's leadership - produces strange paradoxes, and this tail docking issue is just the latest. The rural lobby is strong, from gamekeepers' associations to hunting proponents to the powerful Countryside Alliance. The current government's proposal to reintroduce the practice didn't come out of the blue. As Green MSP Mark Ruskell explains, the lobbying began with the SNP's victory at Holyrood in 2007. The previous Labour-led "rainbow" parliament, with its seven green MSPs and six socialists, had introduced the Animal Welfare (Scotland) Act, banning the practice of docking as well as fox hunting. 
 
"The gamekeepers were furious," Ruskell said, "And the first thing they did was to lobby the new Scottish government". Ten years later, their wish was granted. "The evidence was rejected by professional bodies, but they still went ahead. It's been spectacularly misjudged," added Ruskell. The power of lobby groups at Holyrood has repeatedly been raised as a concern by campaigners and parliamentarians alike, with last year's Lobbying Act cricitised as being far too weak to ensure real transparency. Pressure from gamekeepers and shooting groups, Ruskell said, influenced the whole way the evidence was put together. One report was simply a survey of self-selecting shooting estates, describing the frequency of tail injuries. 
 
For its part the Scottish government defended the move by pointing out that the rules will still be more restrictive than in other parts of the UK. Only a vet can make the decision to shorten tails - "no more than the end third" - and it will apply only to spaniels and hunt point retrievers. "We have seen enough evidence that some working dogs are suffering tail injuries to make the case for the law being changed", said a government spokesperson. "Scotland is a nation of animal lovers and we take the welfare of our pets, animals and livestock very seriously." 
 
Reaction from SNP members online has been fairly damning, with some talking of leaving the party - though others have defended the decision. The next big showdowns in Holyrood on animal welfare are likely to be just as emotive: the use of electric shock collars on dogs, and the prosecution of wildlife crime (or, how to deal with the fact that poisoned, bludgeoned birds of prey keep turning up on grouse shooting estates). The latter in particular will test, once again, the direction of a party split between appeasing a land management lobby, and meeting the high expectations of its newer members. 
 

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