Harry Kane: Outspoken pundits should remember what wearing England shirt is like

Harry Kane wants outspoken ex-England players to remember what it is like to wear the shirt.

Among the favourites to win this summer’s European Championship, Gareth Southgate’s sit top of Group C on four points heading into Tuesday’s final pool match against Slovenia in Cologne.

But, despite being all-but through with a match to spare, England’s disjointed displays in the 1-0 win against Serbia and 1-1 draw with Denmark has seen the team come under intense scrutiny.

Former striker Gary Lineker labelled the display “s***” on his podcast, having said that Kane “needs to do a lot better”, with fellow pundit Alan Shearer another critical voice.

Photo of Gary Lineker
Gary Lineker was critical of England’s display (John Walton/PA)

“I would never want to be disrespectful to any player, especially a player who has worn the shirt and knows what it is like to play for England,” skipper Kane said.

“But what ex-players or ex-players who are pundits now have got to realise it is very hard not to listen to it now, especially for some players who are not used to it or some players who are new to the environment.

“I always feel like they have a responsibility. I know they have got to be honest and give their opinion but also they have a responsibility of being an ex-England player that a lot of players look up to that people do listen to them and people do care what they say.

“The bottom line is we haven’t won anything as a nation for a long, long time and a lot of these players were part of that as well and they know how tough it is, so it is not digging anyone out.

“It is just the reality that they do know it is tough to play in these major tournaments and tough to play for England.

“I would never disrespect any ex-player. All I would say is remember what it is like to wear the shirt and that their words are listened to. Some of the lads, I don’t know how many, but we do hear it.

“We all want to win a major tournament and I am sure they want us to win a major tournament and being as helpful as they can and building the lads up with confidence would be a much better way of going about it.”

Declan Rice, another member of England’s four-man leadership team in Germany, echoed the captain’s views.

Declan Rice gestures with his arms during England's draw with Denmark
Declan Rice has responded to England’s critics (Adam Davy/PA)

“I’m not disappointed because, look, I’ve played football long enough now, I know how they work,” the midfielder told ITV. “That’s why I really do not get bothered by it at all.

“They’re entitled to their opinion. They’re on the TV, they’re saying whatever they want. I know some of them personally. They’re great guys.

“But, like I said, they’ve been in our shoes as well, and sometimes just have that thought of process just before they speak that they have been where I’m sat and where our other players have sat and not done well at tournaments.

“So, look, I don’t know why we feel like it’s such a negative thing. We’re talking like we’re going out of the tournament here. You know, we’re top of the group. We need to stay positive, stay upbeat.

“Let’s have some positivity going into games. Let’s give players the best confidence in the world.

“Your players like your Phil Fodens, your (Bukayo) Sakas, your Jude Bellinghams – tell them they’re the best players in the world.

“Make them read that and think ‘I’m going to go out there and perform and give it absolutely everything’, rather than reading a negative comment sitting on their mind and then thinking that they can’t play a certain way.

“That’s the way I think about it and I’m sure we have enough of them people as well, which is good.”

But while the players want people to keep things in perspective, England skipper Kane understands improvements are needed as they look to step up a gear before the last 16.

“I think momentum is the right word,” the Bayern Munich striker said ahead of Tuesday’s match against Slovenia.

England manager Gareth Southgate in training
Gareth Southgate has faced criticism of his side’s performances (Adam Davy/PA)

“If, before the tournament you would have said we are where we are now, nearly qualified, we would have took it for sure.

“But we can be honest with ourselves that we haven’t played the way we want to play but the good thing is we have still got results without doing that.

“But Tuesday is important for the feeling of the group, we want to finish top and take the momentum into the knockout stages and just all round have a better feeling coming off the pitch and take that into the rest of the tournament.”

Kane’s opener against Denmark was his first group stage goal since 2018 but he has struggled to make an impact in Germany and was withdrawn in the second half.

“If I’m honest with myself, have I played the best that I know I can? No,” he said.

“But I didn’t score in the group stage at the World Cup, I didn’t score in the group stage at the Euros, so from my point of view it’s a bonus to be one goal ahead.”