Football is, by its very nature, a numbers game.
And it’s the weight of numbers that has seen Harry Kane become England’s top goalscorer of all time.
The striker netted a penalty against Italy in March to take his international goal tally to 54 – one more than Wayne Rooney’s previous best mark.
Just so proud to be this country’s all time top goalscorer it’s something you can’t even dream about as a kid. A magical moment. 🏴🦁🦁🦁 pic.twitter.com/qeSVaFi4pJ
— Harry Kane (@HKane) March 23, 2023
Kane doesn’t turn 30 until July 2023, which means that barring injury and a loss of form, he has plenty of time to accelerate away and establish himself as the greatest goal-grabber in Three Lions history.
But are there caveats to Kane’s feat? In his eight-year England career to date, he’s earned 81 caps thanks to an onslaught of friendlies and new tournaments like the Nations League. Jimmy Greaves, another Tottenham legend whose club goal record Kane broke in 2023, was a near ever-present for England over eight years and yet made just 57 appearances.
More games should mean more goals for a striker – especially when playing against mediocre opposition. Previous England forwards rarely got a chance to line up against the likes of Lithuania, San Marino, Malta, Panama and Andorra, against whom Kane has rattled in 13 of his 54 international goals….or 24%.
Harsh? Perhaps. But does Kane deserve his place in the conversation of all-time great England strikers?
The Best England Striker by….Goals-per-Game
One of the simplest measures of a striker’s efficiency is to measure their goal-to-game ratio.
We can do that by taking England’s ten highest goalscorers and dividing their number of appearances by the quantity of goals scored.
On which note:
Goals Per Game Ratios of England’s Top Scorers
The astonishing goal return of Nat Lofthouse cannot be bettered in an England shirt. The Bolton legend admittedly only played 30 games for his country, which is a lot fewer than the other names on the list, but note that Lofthouse didn’t make his England debut until he had turned 25.
Of those that have made 50 or more appearances, Greaves boasts the best goal-per-game ratio for England at 0.77.
The Best England Striker by….Competitive Goals
There’s some conjecture about this as a measure of the prowess of international goalscorers.
Firstly, the World Cup and European Championships weren’t established until 1930 and 1960 respectively – those major tournaments came too late for some of England’s leading goalscorers to contest.
The UEFA Nations League has also now been bundled up in the ‘competitive’ category – that wasn’t founded until 2018, alongside qualifiers for the three tournaments already mentioned.
Those misgivings aside, Kane takes his place at the top of the all-time goalscorers list in competitive games for England, having notched 48 times for the Three Lions.
The Best England Striker by….World Cup Goals
So let’s dig a bit deeper and analyse the claims of each England striker based upon their World Cup goals; the biggest stage of them all in the beautiful game.
And to that end, it’s Lineker who leads the way with ten World Cup goals.
Kane has eight, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he could tie or break Lineker’s record at the 2026 World Cup in North America – albeit he will be 33 by then.
The Best England Striker by….Most Consecutive Major Tournament Goals
Here’s an interesting stat that measures how consistent England strikers were from one major tournament to the next – and also their career longevity.
Readers of a certain vintage will remember Michael Owen taking the footballing world by storm in the 1990s – particularly with his awesome displays at World Cup 1998.
But he backed it up to, and ultimately ended up scoring at four consecutive major tournaments: the World Cups in 1998 and 2002, plus the European Championships of 2000 and 2004.
And the Winner Is?
No debate on who is England’s greatest ever goalscorer can be concluded until Kane’s playing days have come to an end.
He has an opportunity to achieve feats previously untouched, with big performances at Euro 2024 and World Cup 2026 likely to end the argument once and for all….