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Liverpool’s Herbie Kane: ‘in the Back Garden I Used to Pretend to Be Gerrard’

Liverpool’s Herbie Kane: ‘in the Back Garden I Used to Pretend to Be Gerrard’

Tuesday, 8 January, 2019 - 08:15
‘Trent Alexander-Arnold and myself are the same age and we are quite close. He has shown that when you get a chance you have to take it with both hands.’ Photograph: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
Growing up, Herbie Kane’s hero was Steven Gerrard, so playing under him for Liverpool Under-19s last season was the stuff of dreams. “I had a few shirts with his name on the back and, when I was little, I used to watch some of his goals and want to be able to do what he had done; I used to practise in the back garden, pretending to be Gerrard,” Kane says, breaking into laughter.

“He was my idol as a kid. I looked up to him, so him being my manager for the under-19s was great and I tried to get him to help me as much as I could. You could speak to him and approach him like you would any other [manager].”

Kane, a box-to-box midfielder who joined Liverpool from Bristol City at the age of 14 in 2013, was in the squad who reached the quarter-finals of the Uefa Youth League under the tutelage of Gerrard. He scored in Slovenia and Sevilla along the way, in between occasionally training with Jürgen Klopp’s first team. “It’s a great standard and I’d love to do it more often,” the Bristolian says. “Danny Ings was someone I could talk to and ask for help. He’s a good lad, and Gini [Wijnaldum] was always doing stuff with me, always happy to talk.”

It was Kane, and Trent Alexander-Arnold, whom Gerrard mentioned in his autobiography, tipping them for the top after the pair impressed while he was gaining his coaching badges in the academy. For Kane, who played with Alexander-Arnold through the age groups for club and country, the young full-back’s upward trajectory acts as inspiration. “Trent and myself are the same age [20], and we are quite close. He has shown that when you get a chance you have to take it with both hands. He is doing unbelievably well and it is good to see.”

Powerfully built and a specialist in the spectacular, Kane has impressed on loan at Doncaster this season but he “does not mind doing the dirty side of the game”. A humble, family-oriented young man, Kane was shocked when he received a text from a friend last summer detailing how he was in illustrious company, on the initial longlist for the Golden Boy award – drawn up by journalists – alongside Kylian Mbappé, the winner Matthias de Ligt and his Liverpool teammates Alexander-Arnold and Ben Woodburn. Since that was published, Kane has taken League One by the scruff of the neck, propelling Doncaster towards the playoffs with six goals in his last nine games.

Grant McCann’s team, who have won six of their last eight matches, travel to Fleetwood on Boxing Day looking to break into the top six. Kane has been all ears when it comes to James Coppinger, the winger who made his 600th competitive appearance for Doncaster on Saturday, and in a short space of time he has crafted quite the showreel: a cheeky free-kick, played off the backside of John Marquis, typifies his quick thinking, and he followed up his first professional goal, in the FA Cup against Chorley last month, with a screamer in the same game before rifling home another stunning strike from 25 yards against Blackpool two weeks later.

This Kane does not do tap-ins, though he could have easily been scoring tries instead of goals. He was a skilful and aggressive back for North Bristol RC down the road from the family home in Pilning, until joining Lawrence Weston AFC, initially on an ad-hoc basis. “I started playing rugby when I was four or five – just tag. The only reason I got into playing football was because I always played a year up in rugby and I wasn’t allowed to go into contact when others did, so when I didn’t have rugby games, I used to go and help my dad’s mate’s team. From then on I just started playing football every week.”

As a boy Kane, like many adolescents, suffered from Sever’s and Osgood-Schlatter diseases as a result of growth spurts. Rest was the only remedy, though his former youth coach Paul Taylor recalls how it pained Kane to be absent, so he would turn up at training, even if just to help put down the cones. Taylor describes Kane as an incredible athlete, a player who quickly took ideas on board, and says Kane manipulates the ball just as he did as an eight-year-old, before he joined Bristol City’s Under-11s.

“I remember I was playing a game for City against Coventry, and there were a load of scouts and people down there watching,” Kane says. “When I got home, my mum and dad sat me down and just said they had had a number of phone calls and saying: ‘These teams want you to come up and have a look, Liverpool being one of them.’ I was in shock, but excited at the same time. I went to Chelsea for a few weeks, had a look there, I went to have a look at [Manchester] United as well, and Arsenal wanted me to go and play a tournament for them but I wasn’t really feeling it. At the time, I felt more warmth about Liverpool.”

Kane keeps a keen eye on Bristol City and attends matches when possible to watch his friend and fellow academy graduate Lloyd Kelly. He was among the 9,000 travelling supporters cheering on Lee Johnson’s side at Manchester City this year and went to Wembley to watch the Robins lift the Football League Trophy in 2015.

This month Kane relished the role of pantomime villain in Doncaster’s 4-0 demolition of Bristol Rovers. “It was a game I was always looking forward to and we got the win, which was a bonus. I got a bit of stick but I take that as a compliment and it kind of spurs me on.”

After signing fresh terms at Anfield last Thursday, and extending his Doncaster stay until the end of the season, Kane’s plans are explicit. “I’m loving playing every week but I want to try to get more goals and assists to help Doncaster get promoted,” he says. “I’m just trying to work hard and, hopefully, I can make my way up the pecking order at Liverpool. I’m hoping I come back in the summer and impress the manager in pre-season.”




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