Pass and move, it’s the Millwall groove. Thankfully, not another football-themed assault on the eardrums, but the new mantra of Lions boss Kenny Jackett. After what seems like an eternity dangling over the League 1 precipice, Jackett’s season-long efforts to remodel his side’s style of play seem finally to have come to fruition. Millwall currently sit just below champions Reading in the Championship form chart, with five consecutive wins this month. And it hasn’t all been blood and thunder, as might be expected (although there has been a bit of that). The highlights reel from Saturday’s destruction of Ipswich contains a pleasing range of movement and link-up play.
Leading the new model Lions from the front, the partnership between January signing Andy Keogh and the subject of this week’s Profile, Spurs and England U19 forward Harry Kane, has been a revelation. Their 15 league goals – including six for Kane, plus two more in the FA Cup – have more than adequately filled the void left by Darius Henderson in his frequent absences through injury. While the experienced Keogh might have been expected to have an immediate influence, his young comrade’s impact has been somewhat more surprising. After arriving at the Den on loan from Tottenham in January, the 18-year old from Walthamstow was slow to adjust to the pace of Championship football. Playing in a front three alongside Keogh and Henderson seemed to take a little pressure off the youngster’s shoulders and he began to contribute goals for the club, including a 25-yarder at the Keepmoat. Another niggle for Henderson, though, brought Kane into partnership with Keogh, and started a successful run for club and player.
The last few games have showcased Kane’s finishing: a powerful header and a burst into the area to win a penalty at home to Hull, a neat turn and drive from close range against Leicester, a low drive from the edge of the area at Pompey. However, it’s his movement and clarity of vision that mark Kane out as a potential star. Constantly on the move, drawing out his marker, this selfless instinct and a willingness to offer defensive cover have endeared him to his adopted supporters. One weakness in his game would appear to be a lack of that much-demanded and mostly over-rated attribute of pace. Any scout tempted to mark Kane down on this basis would do well to remind themselves of another former Millwall and Spurs striker who went on to do alright for himself.
Whether Kane will be a Spurs striker for any great length of time is open for debate. This season, some 13 of Harry’s Hotspurs have spent time on loan in the Football League, and it isn’t the first time Kane has been packed off on loan. An impressive record of five goals in nine starts for Orient in 2010-11 no doubt persuaded Kenny Jackett to take a chance on him in this campaign. With the Lilywhites’ ambitions clearly way above Kane’s current station, though, a few more seasons roaming the second tier are likely. And this is the problem with such a policy (one that is, of course, by no means unique to Spurs and is in fact becoming the norm among the biggest Premier League clubs). The immediate benefits to the parent club are evident and I, for one, am grateful for Kane’s presence in the Millwall XI. But does there come a point when such instability becomes detrimental to the development of Football League clubs and young loanees alike?
A ratio of a goal every three games in 2012, plus a handful of appearances in the Europa League for his parent club earlier in the footballing year, will no doubt give Kane confidence for the immediate future. It remains to be seen if, after years of being shunted from pillar to post, that will last. His performances for Millwall suggest a player with a great future. It would be a shame to see that promise go to waste.