Pitchside

  • Harry Kane isn't especially fast, powerful or good in the air. In other words, he could be the new Gary Lineker.

    Nick Miller was at an unusually-atmospheric Wembley to witness the birth of what genuinely might become a top-class international career.

    England's Harry Kane (Reuters)England's Harry Kane (Reuters)

    It's tough to remember the last time an England debut was hyped to this extent. Theo Walcott, perhaps? Wayne Rooney or Michael Owen before him? Understandably so, too, given the remarkable rise of Harry Kane from the fringes of the Tottenham side to the joint top-scorer in the Premier League, level on 19 goals with £32 million-worth of Diego Costa.

    But Roy Hodgson is a sensible man. He wears sensible clothes, has sensible tastes, probably drives a sensible car - and what's more, drives it sensibly. It could be (and indeed has been) said that is one of his weaknesses as a manager, that he is

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  • Forget Harry Kane, Danny Welbeck should start up front for England

    Ali Tweedale of WhoScored says England should ignore the hype and leave Harry Kane on the bench for Friday's Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania.

    England striker Harry Kane (C) is pictured during a team training session at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre in London on March 26, 2015England striker Harry Kane (C) is pictured during a team training session at Tottenham Hotspur Training Centre in London on March 26, 2015

    The fervour surrounding Harry Kane’s first England call up this week has been typically English. Here we have an exciting young talent who has taken the Premier League by storm this season, completely against the odds. A woeful World Cup campaign in Brazil has been swiftly forgotten; there is even optimism growing with regards to the Three Lions’ assault on Europe in 2016. Maybe Kane can answer our prayers?

    Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney likely – and rightly – remain ahead of Kane in the pecking order up front, but with the Liverpool man having dropped out of the squad due to injury, an

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  • Good Week, Bad Week: Roy Hodgson's awful moment, Dion Dublin's mad new job

    Nick Miller takes a look back on the week in the beautiful game, with Dion Dublin's new TV career and Nerymar's showboating making the cut.

    England manager Roy Hodgson (PA)England manager Roy Hodgson (PA)

    GOOD WEEK

    Surrealism

    Presumably you'll be familiar with the episode of the Simpsons in which Bart points out to Lisa that 'you can pinpoint the second' Ralph Wiggum's heart breaks in half, after being spurned.

    If not, please rectify this immediately:

    A similar thing sprang to mind this week in the build-up to England's qualifier against Lithuania, when Roy Hodgson was being interviewed.

    Not by Geoff Shreeves or Ned Boulting or Gabriel Clarke or some other hopeful whelp with a microphone, but by a robot. Well, sort of a robot – it was a vaguely humanoid contraption with some sort of iPad or

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  • Catalan Cup final showcases another side of football in Barcelona

    Andy Mitten attends the Catalan Cup final and highlights part of the football culture which exists outside of Camp Nou in Barcelona.

    Andy Mitten at the Catalan Cup finalAndy Mitten at the Catalan Cup final

    After the usual arguments between the finalists and potential hosts about where the Copa del Rey final will be staged, Camp Nou has been chosen for this year’s match on May 30.

    Finalists Barcelona are understandably happy, with 84% of their fans approving. Fans of their opponents, Athletic Bilbao, are less satisfied. At least Camp Nou’s huge capacity means both clubs will receive 39,000 tickets, with a further 20,000 for the Spanish FA. With an AC/DC concert in front of 50,000 at the Olympic Stadium and the Primavera music festival with a similar number expected, Barcelona will be very busy

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  • If Gareth Bale wants to be a true great he must not return to England with Manchester United

    Gareth Bale is having a tough time in Spain, but Tom Adams says that the true legends of the game are forged in La Liga - and there's a tantalising challenge ahead at Real Madrid.

    Gareth Bale has had a tugh 2015 with Real MadridGareth Bale has had a tugh 2015 with Real Madrid

    The sight of two Real Madrid fans attempting to land unconvincing punches and one wayward kick on a white Bentley belonging to Gareth Bale is more likely to have resulted in a sportsman's bruised pride than serious structural damage to a supercar. But it is tempting to conclude there may have been something symbolic about this distasteful incident, with the Welshman escaping into the night after being hounded out of Madrid's training ground in the early hours of Monday morning.

    The attempted vehicular assault was conducted by two rather over-zealous fans, one of whom has had his Madrid

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  • How Louis van Gaal's philosophy came good at Manchester United

    Greg Johnson explains how things are changing, quickly, under United's Dutch boss.

    Louis van Gaal took time to win over the critics, but now his plans are clearLouis van Gaal took time to win over the critics, but now his plans are clear

    Greg Johnson of Squawka says we are now seeing the true manifestation of Louis van Gaal's philosophy at Manchester United - who are back where they belong.

    - - -

    If you come at the English with a philosophy, you best not miss. After all, failure to make high-minded ideas count will always count against managers who dare to stick their heads above the pulpit and define themselves as thinkers in one form or another.

    Andre Villas-Boas was far from blameless when it came to his two Premier League dismissals at Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, but his profile as a bookish, bright young analyst

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  • 2014-15 Manchester United, Radamel Falcao (getty images)2014-15 Manchester United, Radamel Falcao (getty images)

    This is the beginning of the end for Radamel Falcao; a spent force, a man stumbling around in the wilderness that he shall never return from.

    The once-great striker, a brute with an insatiable appetite for goals and a prolific scoring record to match, will not be able to revive his Manchester United career – a woeful return of just four goals has made damn sure of that – and he will arrive back in the French Riviera this summer knowing that there will be very few options left for him.

    The Colombian appeared to have it all just a few short years ago and was regarded as one of the best strikers

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  • Roberto Mancini's thoughts on nationality are short-sighted and damaging to football

    Roberto Mancini believes footballers should only ever play for the country that they were born in - but his opinion is wildly short-sighted says Joshua Hayward.

    Roberto ManciniRoberto Mancini

    The topic of nationality in football is a tremendously grey area and has been for decades, but only in recent times does it appear that more and more players, managers and fans want the issue cleared up.

    In years gone by, some of the world’s greatest players have featured for a number of different countries at the very highest level without anybody kicking up too much of a fuss.

    Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano played most of his international football for Spain, the country in which he resided as an adult, though he first turned out for Argentina – the country of his birth – and even

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  • Speculation over the future of Arsenal's record signing is rife after a top German newspaper caught Mesut Ozil partying, when he was meant to have 'a cold'.

  • European Team of the Week: Sorry, Harry - Zlat's the way to do it

    Three goals against Leicester? Nice, but no metaphorical cigar for Harry Kane as he misses out on this week's best XI from around the continent.

    Euro TOTW - Kane and IbrahimovicEuro TOTW - Kane and Ibrahimovic

    Pity poor Harry Kane. He is the form striker of the season in English football, and enjoyed his best day so far of an amazing campaign on Saturday as he bashed in a hat-trick against Leicester City.

    And what happens? He still didn't make it into Opta's European Team of the Week.

    Now, it's not that Kane's performance wasn't superb - he ranked 96 out of 100, a scored bettered by only two people across the continent.

    Sadly for Kane, one of those people was Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who shrugged off all sorts of crazy headlines over the last week to lead Paris St Germain to a huge win over Lorient,

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