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Published 23 March 2023 9 min read
England Men's Senior Team

Harry Kane's grassroots story

Written by:

Harry Kane

England's all-time record goalscorer Harry Kane explains how he went from rejection by Arsenal to following his hero David Beckham in going from Ridgeway Rovers to captaining England at a World Cup

When I was five, I wrote a note which said: ‘I want to play football’. I just fell in love with it.

If I think back, my earliest football memory would probably be playing at the park with my dad and my brother, Charlie. Where we lived in Chingford, our garden would literally back onto Ridgeway Park so we would either use a couple of trees for goals or carry a goal over the fence and play for as long as possible.

My dad would go in goal as me and my brother, who is four years older, would play one-versus-one for hours. I would also join in with Charlie and his mates. It makes you compete a little bit harder when you are playing against people four years older than you. I just loved being out there and trying to improve.

I would also play football at Larkswood Primary School. We were only allowed to play with tennis balls back then in the playground and I was saying to someone recently I don’t know if that helped me as well. Playing with such a small ball, your touch, and your finishing, everything seemed a bit easier when you went to a normal size ball, so maybe playing in the playground with a tennis ball is something for the kids to get into! 

Looking back to those times, I just remember itching to get to play time so we could play football and I really enjoyed my time there.

I think I was about five or six years old when I started playing for Ridgeway Rovers, our local Sunday league team. We were pretty good at that age and it had a good set-up, with good coaches and plenty of good players. It was my first taste of being in a team environment where I could play with a lot of my mates from school. I loved it.

David Beckham had also played for Ridgeway Rovers growing up and with Beckham being Beckham, growing up he was my idol, and it was the same for a lot of young kids in that area. I knew he had played for the same team as me, went to the same local secondary school in Chingford Foundation School, and grew up in the area, so whilst Beckham was obviously a huge figure across the world, for those of us in Chingford, where he came from, that was all people used to speak about. It was nice to have that link and looking back, having two England captains from Ridgeway Rovers and Chingford Foundation School is an amazing achievement.

Seeing Beckham go on to achieve what he did made it seem a little bit more real. If I didn’t have that you might have felt it was out of reach or an impossible task, with so many people and potential footballers out there, but it gave me that little bit of extra belief that I could go on and achieve the same.

He had sent a Real Madrid shirt back to our secondary school, so to see that hanging up was amazing. I was able to send one of my England shirts back to the school too, so now they are there next to each other. Seeing Beckham’s shirt- hanging there growing up and knowing he grew up in the same surroundings as I did was a source of great motivation.

You may have seen it but there is a picture of me with Beckham from when I was in year seven. He was opening his academy close to The O2 and girls and boys from his old school’s sports teams were invited. I remember being so excited. We got David Beckham tracksuits and trainers and then we got to meet him and have a kickabout with him. 

Hary Kane and his wife-to-be Kate were among the kids from David Beckham's old school to help open the Beckham Academy back in 2005
Hary Kane and his wife-to-be Kate were among the kids from David Beckham's old school to help open the Beckham Academy back in 2005

We haven’t spoken about the picture when we’ve seen each other but it has come up on Instagram before and he has reposted it. The girl next to him on the other side is actually my wife because we went to the same school. So it is a really nice picture to have back at home as it brings back some nice memories for us.

Luckily enough it was my year group as at any other time, it wouldn’t have been and I would have missed out, so maybe there is a little bit of fate there.

Ridgeway Rovers has helped produce a lot of players (Beckham, Kane, Andros Townsend, Jordon Archer, Dennis Cirkin, Charlie Daniels, Dwight Gayle and Nico Yennaris, to name a few). It is hard to say why but they are a well-run club, it has a nice family environment and there was never too much pressure from the parents or coaches. It was a fun place to be and as a kid, that is so important. Being able to just go out there and enjoy your football. 

It is quite rare to have that little pocket in a small place like Chingford though; maybe there is something in the water that is producing so many good footballers!

It was a similar story with Chingford Foundation School. There were good teachers there, good coaches and again there was not too much pressure. They just wanted us to go out there and enjoy it.

Harry Kane back in 2010 representing the England men's Under-17s
Harry Kane back in 2010 representing the England men's Under-17s

After playing at Ridgeway from the ages of 5 to six, I went to Arsenal for a couple of years from seven to nine before I was then released. When I look back on being released, I didn’t think too much about it. They let my parents know and I remember it as clear as day we were walking to the local park and my dad said: ‘Arsenal are letting you go but we are going to go back to Ridgeway and we will carry on doing what we are doing and working hard’.

Obviously, I had friends at Arsenal so it was a little disappointing that I wouldn’t be able to play with them but for me at that age, no matter who I was playing for, I just wanted to play football. So whilst it was rejection, it was a case of on to the next thing, keep working hard, and seeing what happens.

When I returned to Ridgeway, it gave me the chance to carry on playing football, carry on staying fit, get the enjoyment back, and deal with the disappointment of being released. I was back with friends, scoring loads of goals and keeping that love of the game going. When you are that young, you don’t know how that kind of disappointment will take its toll on a young kid, so it was good to have that. I was back at Ridgeway for about a year to 18 months and I loved being there and scoring goals.

Harry Kane playing for England MU19s back in 2011
Harry Kane playing for England MU19s back in 2011

I was then picked up by Spurs so Ridgeway Rovers was a great stepping stone and it allowed me to get to where I am in my career now.

I initially went to Tottenham for a six-week trial but after they said: ‘We don’t want to pick you’. So I went to Watford on trial and I really enjoyed it there. I did well and they offered me a contract but at the last stages, we played Tottenham and I scored a hat-trick for Watford, so Tottenham offered me a contract almost there and then. It was a tough decision but Tottenham were the bigger club at the time so I joined Spurs at the age of 11 and I’ve been there since.

I think it is really important when you are that young to understand that it is really hard to tell if you are going to be a professional footballer, no matter how good the coaches and the scouts are. There is a lot more than just ability that goes into being a professional footballer. It is about determination, mentality, and work ethic, along with your ability. 

Harry Kane scoring at the FIFA U20 World Cup against Chile in 2013
Harry Kane scoring at the FIFA U20 World Cup against Chile in 2013

When I was released aged nine, I was one of the smallest on the team and because I had a late birthday, I was almost a year behind a lot of the players physically. But then I became a totally different player when I had a growth spurt at 14 and was then one of the tallest on the team. So things can change really quickly. 

I tell a lot of boys and girls who want to be professional footballers to just enjoy it. Just enjoy playing football, try to play in different positions, learn all different aspects of the game and just work hard. If it is something you want to do, then train hard, do extra, and really believe in yourself because anything is possible.

I played different positions all the way up until the youth team and even in the youth team, I played a few games in central defence. The majority of my youth team years were as a number ten but in the under-16s I was playing as a deep midfielder. I think it was great for my development, being able to understand everyone’s position on the pitch, understand what the strikers need to do when the midfielder has the ball, and it was all a great learning curve. 

11 Jul 2022 10:48

Every England Goal From Euro 2020

See goals from Harry Kane and the other England players from last year's home EUROs

Before I became an England player, I was an England fan. During most major tournaments we would go to the pub to watch England. The Sirloin at the time was the pub that everyone went to, with the beer garden and the screen. We loved England, we loved watching England and we were big England fans. I remember many tears being shed after we went out on penalties and things like that. 

During the EUROs and the World Cup, as players we saw the videos of all the beer going everywhere, and whilst we are in the bubble when we are playing, it is still nice to see those images and it brings me back to what it was like when we were younger.

I remember being that kid and all those memories now. A lot of them were disappointing memories so it was nice that we have been able to give the fans a lot of good memories by getting to the semi-finals of the World Cup and the Final of the EUROs. 

We have not quite had that ultimate success yet but to give the young boys and girls, and the men and women, all around the country that happy feeling and those moments, where the beer goes everywhere and you are jumping on each other, is really special. 

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