England's over-reliance on Kane keeping Southgate from developing a Plan B

LONDON -- There is no debate over Harry Kane's importance to England. After scoring a hat trick in Saturday's 4-0 Euro 2020 qualifier victory against Bulgaria at Wembley, the Tottenham forward boasts 25 goals in 40 appearances for his country.

But has he become too important, too central to Gareth Southgate's plans for the good of his country? England, for all of Kane's goals, need a Plan B if they are to win an international tournament with their impressive crop of players, but Kane's consistency is making it impossible for the manager to experiment with alternative options.

For the historians and statisticians, Kane is 14th on the all-time list of England goal scorers: one ahead of 1966 World Cup-winning hero Geoff Hurst and one behind former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson.

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Frank Lampard (29 goals) and Alan Shearer (30) are now within Kane's sights, and the 26-year-old could quite easily eclipse those two before the end of England's Group A campaign, with two games against Kosovo -- starting with Tuesday's meeting in Southampton -- a Wembley clash against Montenegro and trips to the Czech Republic and Bulgaria still to come this year. With Kane seemingly now in the peak years of his career, Wayne Rooney's status as England's all-time leading scorer, with 53 goals, is a target that Southgate's captain will believe is well within his reach.

But if England are to make the step up from perennial pretenders to winners on the biggest stage, Southgate must find a way to ensure that Kane is not always the main man. After all, when England needed goals from open play in the latter stages of the World Cup last year, Kane could not deliver against the likes of Sweden and Croatia as he did against Panama and Tunisia in the group stage. Kane also fired blanks during this summer's Nations League finals in Portugal, failing to score against the Netherlands and Switzerland, but his ability to deliver against world football's lesser lights is without question.

Southgate faces a dilemma with the Spurs striker, though. He has to select him because his track record merits his status as England's No. 1 forward.

But with the attacking qualities of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount to call upon, Southgate must be tempted to try a forward line including three of that quartet, perhaps replicating the pace and movement of Liverpool's attacking triumvirate of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino or even the Dele Alli-Lucas Moura-Son Heung-Min trio that Mauricio Pochettino has turned to when Kane has been unavailable at Tottenham.

As a traditional No. 9, Kane is not ideally suited to playing in a fluid front three. He prowls the final third by playing down the central channel of the pitch, and he is one of the best exponents of the role in the world game. But the deeper that England go into tournaments, the less effective Kane has proven to be because stronger opponents are able to nullify him more easily.

The same might be the case if England were to deploy a front three of players moving between the positions, but sooner or later, the system needs to be tried out. And who knows? England might be more effective with Sancho, Rashford and Sterling tearing at opponents than if their game is centred on getting the ball to Kane.

Against Bulgaria, who looked to be far weaker than their FIFA world ranking of 60th, Kane's contribution was pretty close to flawless. He had five shots at goal, with four hitting the target, and three ending up goals. He also notched an assist by creating Sterling's headed goal in the second half.

But England are not going to become world or European champions by beating Bulgaria or any of their Group A opponents. It is what they do against the likes of France, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands that will matter, and those teams will have a plan for Kane.

Perhaps the time has come for Southgate to play the long game and try a different approach, safe in the knowledge that his Plan A is as reliable as any in world football.

Kane has scored 20 and set up five of England's past 30 goals, so Southgate knows what he delivers. But right now, England are too reliant on him. Injury or loss of form could strike Kane down between now and next summer -- and he usually has one injury drama each season -- so once qualification is secured, roll out Plan B.

England certainly have the players to make it work.