Jose Mourinho shouldn't pick the England side: Neil Humphreys
Southgate should field captain Kane against Denmark, if he is fit
Jose Mourinho is right about one thing. The Nations League is a waste of time.
The Three Lions' scrappy 2-1 victory against Belgium yesterday morning (Singapore time) scarcely troubled the news headlines in England yesterday, as the country contemplates further lockdowns.
England are now top of League A, Group 2, whatever that means.
As tournaments go, the Nations League is still very much the Paris Hilton of silverware. Plenty has been spent in the hope of recouping even more, but no one is entirely sure why it continues to generate so much publicity.
But that doesn't mean Mourinho is right about Harry Kane.
As long as the Three Lions have fixtures to play, Kane should play in them.
But his Tottenham Hotspur manager thinks otherwise. In recent weeks, Mourinho has engaged in a spirited debate with England boss Gareth Southgate over Kane's availability.
It's not so much a club versus country tussle as it is a Mourinho versus a Mickey Mouse competition, and the Spurs manager has a valid point.
Why should he risk his leading man and Son Heung-min's natural partner for a tournament that struggled to rouse interest even before a global pandemic?
The Nations League wasn't high on anyone's priorities before Covid-19. Now, it's barely an afterthought.
So Mourinho has slyly chipped away at Southgate's authority in recent weeks, reiterating Tottenham's fixture congestion and the club's reliance on Kane.
And then, the striker picked up an "injury" during the international break. Southgate insisted that his skipper was not injured, claiming that Kane had experienced a "strange training week".
Being elite football's clairvoyant-in-residence, Mourinho had practically predicted Kane's injury. Before the international break, he warned of mysterious fatigue factors surrounding Kane, and so it came to pass.
According to club sources, Tottenham had demanded his return. According to England sources, Kane simply had cramp.
According to everyone else, it was a mildly entertaining soap opera between Mourinho and Southgate that drew focus away from another defensive England performance (albeit one that ended in a lucky win against the world's No.1-ranked side).
But Kane didn't start. He came on in the 66th minute for a late cameo. In England's previous friendly against Wales, he didn't feature at all.
Mourinho, the great soothsayer, had anticipated the response of another man's muscles as effectively as Warren Buffett predicts another country's markets.
For the Nostradamus of north London, it's all a bit of a laugh. His usual antics are light-hearted, psychological fluff, except Southgate risks becoming the punch line.
With unfortunate timing, Southgate's decision to bench Kane came on the same night he brought on Jadon Sancho in the dying minutes.
Sancho's inclusion was already something of a surprise, considering he had recently breached Covid-19 rules in Britain. Before the game, Southgate had stressed the importance of discipline and authority.
He insisted that there had to be consequences for Covid-19 indiscretions. But Sancho picked up an England cap anyway.
Southgate had also insisted that Mourinho's phone calls and public pleading would have no bearing on his team selections. But Kane didn't start the last two international games, despite not being injured, according to England staff.
Such mixed messaging may lead to a credibility issue, particularly if it isn't rectified for the Denmark game because England undoubtedly need Kane.
After a woeful first half, the Three Lions finished strongly after their captain's introduction. He almost scored, glancing just wide from a corner.
Until Kane's arrival, a familiar pattern dominated the plodding affair. The defensive set-up was similar to England's formation that led to a World Cup semi-final at Russia 2018.
But they scored just three goals from open play in seven World Cup games. Against Belgium yesterday, they didn't fashion a shot in the opening half an hour (and failed to score in two games against Belgium at the World Cup, too).
Southgate's 3-4-3, which quickly morphs into a 5-2-3 against superior opposition, relies heavily on Kane to dispatch England's rare opportunities.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin remains an exciting prospect, but lacks Kane's experience and ability to pull defences out of shape and retrieve possession. The Everton forward was a spectator against Belgium.
If Southgate perseveres with a defence-first philosophy against Denmark, then Kane's services are undoubtedly required.
England games matter more than Mourinho's mind games.
A kind, empathetic manager, Southgate needs to step out of character and put his own interests first.