Jermain Defoe has dismissed concerns surrounding Harry Kane’s fitness, insisting the striker remains capable of excelling at the World Cup even if he is not fully fit.
Reports persist that England’s staff believe he rushed back from his ankle ligament injury to the detriment of his conditioning and that they fear he could therefore struggle this summer in Russia.
Kane under-performed two years ago at Euro 2016 when he was visibly tired and, amid the decline of Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney’s international retirement, he has become even more important to the national cause.
Bournemouth’s Defoe played alongside the striker as a senior figure at Spurs when the 24-year-old was breaking through, and he insists it is a myth that goalscorers need to be at their fittest to impress, because their instinct ensures they will continue to score.
“You don’t need to be fit; if you’re a goalscorer, you’re a goalscorer,” Defoe, 35, told Press Association Sport. “He had that injury, and people are saying he rushed back, but if you’re Tottenham, you need him back, as simple as that.
“Harry’s one of those players who even if he’s not 100 per cent he wants to play, to score goals. He wants to go into the tournament sharp, as he was before the injury. If you miss five, six, seven games, you need five, six, seven games to get your sharpness again.
“We hope he goes there sharp, but even if he’s not match fit, if a chance comes, Harry will score.
“I’ve had games where I’ve not been 100 per cent match fit and you manage the game, wait for the chances, get yourself in the area where you score. Instinct kicks in; you take your chances like you normally do, regardless of how many games you’ve played and you’re fit or not.”
Defoe remains in contention to travel as one of England’s strikers, where he could yet prove valuable as an impact substitute even if he would not be expected to start.
He also has the experience of scoring at South Africa 2010, but it is the potential of Gareth Southgate’s young attacking options that most excites him.
“It’ll be a dream to go to another World Cup; if not I’ll watch every game,” he said. “Maybe its something Gareth can look at. Especially in tournaments – it’s about the squad, not just the team. You need people to come off (the bench) and have an impact.
“It’s up to the manager – he knows what I offer and what I do. I played against Gareth.
“I watched the Italy game at Wembley; I was really pleased with how we played that game, with (Raheem) Sterling, (Jesse) Lingard and (Jamie) Vardy up front. Going forward we looked really sharp in the transition, getting the ball in between lines and penetrating. We looked really good; you need that sort of confidence, and different formations.”
:: Jermain Defoe was speaking at the JDF Cup, a junior charity football tournament hosted by The Jermain Defoe Foundation in aid of homeless and vulnerable children.