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Statistics suggest that Harry Kane has little to gain from England Under-21 games

Tottenham Hotspur star Harry Kane, one of the best young players of the season, could – according to the Daily Mail – make his England debut tonight in a hugely exciting and yet already controversial day in his footballing career.

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The 21-year-old, who has scored an incredible 29 goals this season after appearing almost from out of nowhere, may only start from the bench against Lithuania if the Mail‘s report is to be believed, but even that has been considered too much by some – most notably England legend and former Under-21s boss Stuart Pearce, according to BBC Sport.

Should Kane be continuing his development for the Under-21s side before being rushed in at senior level? Many feel that for the good of England’s future, its best young players should be turning out in youth tournaments and progressing at a low-pressure level before being introduced into the scary world of being a full England international, where one mistake can drastically turn your whole career on its head.

Still, in the same way that Kane did not seem to gain much from loan spells away from Spurs before becoming first choice upfront this season, it seems he may have little more developing to do at a lower level. Why halt his remarkable progress when he already looks the best man for the job playing upfront?

A look at others who have been fixtures at Under-21 level for England gives mixed reading, but largely it shows a number of flops who couldn’t take that form to the next level; it is not necessarily the best way to judge potential or develop talent that is already there.

England Under-21 most appearances:
James Milner (46)
Tom Huddlestone (33)
Fabrice Muamba (33)
Michael Mancienne (30)
Scott Carson (29)
Steven Taylor (29)
Danny Rose (29)
Jamie Carragher (27)
Gareth Barry (27)
Jordan Henderson (27)
Jack Butland (27)

Of the list above, James Milner is clearly the most successful with 53 senior caps following his 46 at youth level. Right below him, however, Tom Huddlestone’s 33 appearances led to only four for the senior side. From the rest of the list, Fabrice Muamba, Michael Mancienne, Steven Taylor, Danny Rose and Jack Butland have one senior cap between them.

Jamie Carragher didn’t have much of an England career, and with Jordan Henderson still only on eight caps, Gareth Barry is the only other player on the list to seemingly truly beneftit from his time at this level. Where are big names like David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand? How about Wayne Rooney, four goals away from becoming all-time leading scorer for the Three Lions, who never made a single appearance for the Under-21s?

England Under-21 all-time top scorers:
Alan Shearer (13)
Francis Jeffers (13)
Saido Berahino (10)
Darren Bent (9)
Frank Lampard (9)
James Milner (9)
Harry Kane (8)
Mark Hately (8)
Carl Cort (8)
Mark Robins (7)
Shola Ameobi (7)
Jermain Defoe (7)

How about goals at Under-21 level? Clearly if you’re a top class player like Alan Shearer, who also starred at senior level for England, they should be easy to come by. Equally so, however, for infamous Arsenal flop Francis Jeffers, who is joint top scorer for the young Three Lions. Saido Berahino, knocking on Roy Hodgson’s door with some fine form this season, already has ten to his name, suggesting he could better goalscoring greats such as Carl Cort, Mark Hately and Shola Ameobi…

Again, no sign of Michael Owen, Daniel Sturridge or Danny Welbeck, all of whom have been big players upfront for England. Kane himself is already on eight goals for the Under-21s, and it’s clear that little conclusion can be made from him adding to his tally. Give him a chance for the main team and see what he can do – ultimately, that is what will test whether or not he can make a career for himself in an England shirt.

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