SPOTY 2018 Betting: Hat-trick hero Harry now the hot favourite
Ralph Ellis looks at a World Cup that's turning us all into England fans again and says Harry Kane is worth backing to be this year's BBC winner.
"A World Cup hero even in a side that ultimately fails to take the prize will always be a contender. Paul Gascoigne won SPOTY in 1990 for his tears in Turin while Michael Owen was honoured in 1998 for THAT goal against Argentina."
My six-year-old grandson Jamie is a big Cristiano Ronaldo fan and began this World Cup wanting Portugal to win it. He cried when Spain took the lead in their opening game, then jumped for joy when his hero - who we are only allowed to call CR7 - got that brilliant free kick at the end.
Things have changed now. The night Harry Kane's late header beat Tunisia, Jamie slept in the new England kit his dad had given him, and then sulked because he couldn't wear it to school next day.
By the time the sixth goal against Panama had flown in off the back of Kane's heel yesterday he was fully converted. Harry is our hero going forward, the man Jamie wants to be in the playground today.
Nation going Kane-crazy?
I suspect the same conversion going on in schools, pubs, factories and offices up and down the country. You have to go back to Alan Shearer for the last time we had a centre-forward who the entire population (bar a few Liverpool fans on Twitter!)felt like supporting, but Kane is stepping into that void.
Earlier this year somebody got £4 matched at [50.0] for him to be the 2018 BBC Sports Personality of the Year and whoever that was is sitting pretty this morning. He's now the [2.8] favourite.
This England team is different
Of course there's a long way to go, and we all know from bitter experience what can happen at World Cups and major tournaments when England are involved. Are we really good enough to be [11.5] to go on and actually win the whole thing?
You fear that just around the corner there's a daft red card, a penalty shoot-out that goes horribly wrong, a horrendous goalkeeping blunder. We've seen it too many times.
But you also get the feeling that there's something different about this England team, and that whatever fate may have in store they have done the hard part of winning over the country again. Suddenly we're all getting enthusiastic about it and the centre forward is a big part of that.
There are no guarantees, not even if Kane, after yesterday the [3.55] favourite to be tournament top goalscorer - does indeed come home with the Golden Boot. Gary Lineker did that in 1986 but didn't make the top three in a year when winner Nigel Mansell hadn't even finished first in the Formula One championship.
But a World Cup hero even in a side that ultimately fails to take the prize will always be a contender. Paul Gascoigne won SPOTY in 1990 for his tears in Turin while Michael Owen was honoured in 1998 for that goal against Argentina.
On the shortlist last year
Kane ticks all the boxes. He's a superb captain, clearly somebody the rest of the team look up to. He's good for the media and the fans, doesn't have a temper, got through 51 games last season with just five yellow cards.
I know I lost money last year when he was on the shortlist and I thought he might make the SPOTY podium for helping clinch qualification. He finished eighth then, but the way a major summer tournament can bring the country together is a special factor.
Of this year's rivals Anthony Joshua [5.2] can only be a contender if he fights and beats Deontay Wilder in the Autumn and the two camps are still haggling over the contract.
Lewis Hamilton [18.5] got only sixth place last year for his fourth world title so you can't believe a fifth would make much difference. Chris Froome [19.0] continues to be haunted by an abnormal drugs test and the Skeleton gold medal of Lizzy Yarnold [21.0] will seem a distant memory come December.
So Harry for SPOTY might just be a good bet. He'll certainly have little Jamie's vote.