Tottenham striker Harry Kane makes Wayne Rooney demand to England boss Gareth Southgate

Southgate claims pundits make criticisms to 'stay relevant'

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Harry Kane is closing in on Wayne Rooney’s record as England’s top goalscorer after his hat-trick against Albania on Friday propelled him to 44 goals for the Three Lions in just 66 appearances. And with minnows San Marino next up, Kane has reportedly pleaded with Gareth Southgate to let him play in a bid to beat the record.

Kane, 28, scored a first-half hat-trick against Albania last week to leave England needing just a point against San Marino, who have only ever registered two draws in World Cup qualifying history.

A draw against the minnows would mean that England would yet again prevail as qualifying group winners for the seventh consecutive tournament.

Usually against teams of San Marino’s status, players who don’t feature as often for the Three Lions would play, such as Tammy Abraham or Ollie Watkins had the latter not dropped out through injury.

However, with no more international football to be played until March, Kane is hoping to play in order to edge ever closer to Rooney’s record of 53 goals.

And according to England boss Southgate, Kane has told him he is keen to play despite not starting against minnows San Marino and Andorra thus far.

“With Harry, I don’t think it would be right to treat this game any differently to any other by giving you [the media] the team,” Southgate said.

“But, for sure, he is keen to play. He wants to play.

“We have got to make sure we get this game won and we still have to try to qualify for the World Cup.

“When we are picking a team, no matter the opponent, we are always thinking about having the right balance and leadership.

“In any game, if you don’t have the right leaders on the pitch and you don’t start the game well, then it can lead to anxiety and if you have not got enough experience around, that can lead to unnecessary difficult moments.

“We want players to win the ball back, players who can create.

“We are going to have a lot of the ball, so we need people who can open up the defence and score goals.”

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England raced into a 5-0 half-time lead against Albania last time out to dispel any threat of not topping their group.

And with San Marino up next, it is rumoured that a second-choice XI will be fielded.

It is likely Southgate will hand debuts to Aaron Ramsdale, Emile Smith Rowe and Conor Gallagher following their inspired form for their respective clubs.

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