Tottenham Hotspur start their FA Cup run, and there would be something fittingly symbolic if it was to be the club’s first trophy in 15 years and - more importantly - the first trophy of Harry Kane’s career.
That may be going a bit far after a hard-fought third-round 1-0 win over managerless League One Portsmouth, but it showed how there’s a level the striker never drops below. A bit like the trophy itself in these modern times, this avowedly patriotic figure has become an English institution who always ensures a certain amount of class and prestige. That was precisely what was seen in another fine Kane match-winner.
There are many who would of course respond that the game is now about far greater glories, that have gone beyond the FA Cup and have just as frustratingly eluded Kane, but the point is the perseverance; the relentlessness; the guarantees.
This could have been a bad period for Kane after all. Many who know him spoke of how he was utterly devastated after the penalty miss against France, in a way they’d never seen him before, and he was questioning everything. It would have been easy to drop off in the way that has happened to many of the most successful players.
Kane has instead responded in the only way he can. He scored supremely polished goals against Crystal Palace in midweek to get Spurs back on track, and then followed here with a brilliant match-winner just when this cup tie threatened to become an unnecessary battle for Spurs.
That also made it 15 FA Cup goals in 20 appearances for Kane, emphasising how he loves this sort of competition. Even more significantly, as he chases down Jimmy Greaves’ club record of 266 goals for Spurs, there was the timing of his latest. Kane hit his own 265th on the exact same date that his great predecessor hit the same number in 1970.
That was a cup replay for Greaves, against Bradford City, but Kane’s goal ensured such a fixture against Portsmouth wasn’t required.
The number-10 scored a goal Greaves would have been proud of, playing a one-two with Ryan Sessegnon before guiding a well-struck shot into the far corner of the net.
Again, just that guarantee of class, that ensured there was no doubt about the result in the end.
A lot of the recent doubts about Spurs were also dispelled. This was a second win in a row and, if Antonio Conte’s side were not brilliant, they were resolute. Bryan Gil was also a notable bright spark, suggesting he can do so much more for this side.
Again, the response might be this was just Portsmouth, but one of the Spanish playmaker’s issues has been the physicality of English football. He got plenty of that here, but so regularly evaded it with skilled play.
Spurs still have some issues of course, but they’re now in the FA Cup fourth round, to go with a good chance of top four and a last-16 tie in the Champions League.
Things don’t look that bad, for all the manager’s recent complaints. This could also have been so much worse.
Portsmouth had put it up to Spurs - or, rather, battened down - in the creditable way that lower-league sides do for this date in the calendar. There’s that extra intensity to all defending, but also an invigorating excitement for any attack. There couldn’t but be excitement when Reeco Hackett-Fairchild acrobatically went for one early effort, though, the Portsmouth attacker twisting his body in the air to fire an overhead at Fraser Forster’s goal. The keeper was of course repeatedly booed from the boisterous away end, given his Southampton connections.
The enthusiasm was all the more impressive from Portsmouth given they had changed managers midweek, with Simon Bassey taking over as interim after the departures of Danny Crowley and Nicky Crowley.
Portsmouth held together well, despite fears things could come apart.
The challenge for such approaches, and why upsets remain so rare - and consequently so uplifting - is two-fold. One is that it’s impossible to keep up such intensity for the full 90. Two is what superior players can do when they finally have that opening.
Kane’s finish was the ultimate sign of that.