Harry Kane believes he will probably have to bring “a big trophy home” for England to win BBC Sports Personality of the Year after finishing third behind Geraint Thomas and Lewis Hamilton on Sunday.
The 25-year-old England and Spurs star was the bookmakers’ favourite going into the programme but came up short in the public vote against the Tour de France winner and F1 champion.
Thomas’ victory was the fifth for a cyclist in the show’s 64-year history but the fourth in the last decade.
Once a niche sport in the UK, cycling is now tied for fourth on the SPOTY winners’ list with boxing and football. Athletics leads the way with 18 wins, followed by seven for F1 drivers and six for tennis players.
Speaking to reporters after the show in Birmingham, Thomas said: “It’s an unbelievable era for cycling – I’m really lucky to have been born when I was and benefit from the boom in cycling.
“Back in the day, cycling was nothing in Britain. But since (the Olympics in) Athens and Beijing, it’s kept snowballing and now it’s in the top four or five sports with football, rugby and cricket.
“It’s seen as a tough sport, but it’s also a team sport, the individuals within the team and the camaraderie, especially on the road. What we’ve achieved on the track in the Olympics has been massive as well and it’s an exciting sport to watch – put all those things together and it adds up to being popular.”
The 32-year-old Welshman became the third British rider to win cycling’s biggest race this summer, surprisingly beating his compatriot and team leader Chris Froome, a four-time Tour winner, into third place.
Kane is the 15th different footballer to finish in the top three at SPOTY but only Bobby Moore in 1966, Paul Gascoigne in 1990, Michael Owen in 1998, David Beckham in 2001 and Ryan Giggs in 2009 have won the accolade.
The first three of those were all recognised for their exploits in World Cups and Geoff Hurst was also third in 1966, the year England won the World Cup – still their only major international trophy.
But apart from Moore, the captain in 1966, Kane might have felt he had as good a claim to SPOTY as football’s other winners, having been the top scorer at this summer’s the World Cup in Russia, where England surprised many by reaching the last four.
In total, he scored eight goals in 12 games for England in 2018, with his final goal being the winner over Croatia last month to clinch a place in the last four of the Nations League. There were also plenty of goals for Spurs as the north London side finished third in the Premier League.
But Thomas, Hamilton and the three other members of the SPOTY shortlist – cricketer James Anderson, sprinter Dina Asher-Smith and Winter Olympian Lizzy Yarnold – could all point to their own medals and milestones, too.
“It’s always difficult being a footballer, being in a team sport,” Kane said.
“Club football is so divided around the country and at this time of year we’re rivals with a lot of other teams.
“We had an amazing summer but the guys who won (at SPOTY), won stuff this year.
“For me, it’s about getting better. Hopefully we can win the Nations League next year and then a big competition like the Euros or the World Cup. Bringing a big trophy home would definitely help.”
There was some recognition in terms of SPOTY prizes for England’s attempts to cheer up the nation this summer, as manager Gareth Southgate was named Coach of the Year.
“Ultimately we want to win the trophies in our own sport but I think when you win a trophy as a coach it’s a reflection on the team and a reflection of the people who work with you,” said Southgate afterwards with his usual modesty.
“In the end our sport probably has more pressure because the profile is higher but the feeling when it goes right, as we’ve experienced over the last few months, can be very special.
“We’ve always got to aim to bring that love with us, that energy we felt, because it helps the team to perform on another level.”