Gareth Southgate backed Harry Kane to return to form with England as they prepare for October's World Cup qualifiers. Southgate's side are set to face Andorra and Hungary but their captain Kane comes into next month's internationals out of form with Tottenham. Despite collecting the Premier League Golden Boot last campaign, the 28-year-old has struggled this term, failing to score or assist in 378 top-flight minutes - attempting just nine shots and creating only four chances.
Kane's international form, by contrast, has not dropped, with the forward netting in 15 consecutive games across the World Cup and European Championship qualifiers. However, Southgate remained firm on his stance about his star striker as he expressed his support for Kane, who is on his longest drought since August 2016. "I can only talk from an England perspective," Southgate responded to reporters when asked about Kane's lack of form on Thursday after announcing his 23-man squad.
"Every couple of months I sit here and have to answer similar questions, and then Harry goes out and scores a lot of goals for us. That's the life of a high-profile player - you have to accept there's going to be that speculation and intensity, that analysis of performances. Last month we had three games, he played in all three and scored goals in all three. He's still a critical part of what we do and I'm sure he's going to be highly motivated when he comes to see us next week.
"He's closing in on a number of incredible goalscorers. We had the sad news of Jimmy Greaves in the last couple of weeks, and Harry is in that echelon of incredible names" Tottenham were most recently downed 3-1 by fierce rivals Arsenal, with Kane making just five passes and recording 25 touches across 90 minutes at Emirates Stadium.
Youngster Emile Smith-Rowe was on the scoresheet for the Gunners and, despite impressing, Southgate wants the Arsenal academy product to maintain his form if he is to earn a place in the England squad. "[Smith-Rowe] is a player we like a lot and was very close to making this squad," Southgate answered when asked about a potential call-up for the 21-year-old.
"At this moment in time I don't want to bring in any more younger players out of the Under-21s. They have got to earn that right over a longer period. I thought his performance against Tottenham was very good. We know how he finished last season as well. I can only say he is a player we really like and he was close."