In the world of football, every club has their ‘one that got away’ story. For Arsenal, it’s the tale of Harry Kane, the prolific striker still breaking records at rival club Tottenham Hotspur. This intriguing narrative digs into Kane’s brief tenure at Arsenal’s Hale End academy, explaining why the Gunners let a future superstar slip through their fingers, and the lessons they’ve learned from it.
- Harry Kane, now a leading striker for Tottenham and England, was initially part of Arsenal’s youth academy but was let go due to physical concerns.
- Former academy director Liam Brady admitted that letting Kane go was a mistake, highlighting the player’s determination and constant improvement.
- Assistant coach Roy Massey, who also worked with talents like Jack Wilshere and Bukayo Saka, emphasised the unpredictability of youth development in football.
In the world of football, every club has a tale of the one that got away. For Arsenal, that tale revolves around Harry Kane, the England captain and Tottenham’s all-time leading scorer. As it turns out, before he ever donned the white of Spurs, Kane was a part of Arsenal’s youth academy.
Aged just eight, Harry Kane found himself at Arsenal’s Hale End academy. However, the future England captain’s time with the Gunners was short-lived, lasting just one season. The reason, as it was revealed by former academy director Liam Brady, was less about Kane’s footballing ability and more about his physical attributes.
“He was a bit chubby, he wasn’t very athletic but we made a mistake,” Brady candidly admitted to Corriere della Sera. However, he was quick to point out that it wasn’t just Arsenal who doubted Kane’s potential. “Tottenham sent him out on loan to lower-division clubs three or four times as well.”
Despite this, Kane’s sheer determination and unyielding character drove him to improve constantly, a trait that Arsenal and Tottenham both seemed to have overlooked. Now, as Brady put it in 2018, “After Messi, Ronaldo and Lewandowski, there is Harry Kane.”
In hindsight, Arsenal’s decision to let Kane go appears as a glaring misjudgement. The East London born forward has since sculpted himself into an athletic footballer and is now one of the leading strikers in the Premier League, having notched up 101 goals for Tottenham.
Roy Massey, who served as an assistant coach at Arsenal’s academy from 1998 to 2014, echoes Brady’s sentiments in a new book. He recalls releasing Kane from the academy when he was 12, stating, “He turned out to be an outstanding player, but back then he hadn’t physically developed.”
But such is the nature of youth development in football. It’s a tricky business, to predict the future of an eight-year-old or a twelve-year-old. Even Tottenham loaned out a young Kane multiple times before he finally made his mark when he could have quite easily been sold many times before.
Massey, who has also coached talents such as Jack Wilshere and Bukayo Saka, believes that there are many promising young players who fail to make the grade as adults. “You don’t know how they’re going to develop mentally or physically,” he added.
Looking back, Arsenal’s decision seems like a costly one. But as it stands, it was a decision based on the information and judgments made at that time. Harry Kane’s rise serves as a lesson in football’s unpredictability and the unrelenting power of determination.
Meanwhile, Arsenal fans can only hope that the next Harry Kane is currently being nurtured at the Hale End academy, ready to write his own success story in the red and white of Arsenal.
As for Kane, for all his goals, he’s still won less than Rob Holding.