Harry Kane helped England come from behind to beat Denmark and reach the final of Euro 2020 on Wednesday, but the forward’s role in the victory came as no surprise to former coach Dave Bricknell.
The Three Lions captain saw his penalty in extra time saved by Kasper Schmeichel but was first to the rebound and scored what proved the winner in a 2-1 triumph for Gareth Southgate’s side, which put them in a first major final since 1966.
A journey which started with Ridgeway Rovers 22 years ago will reach a high point on Sunday when Kane follows in the footsteps of Bobby Moore by leading an England team out at Wembley 90 minutes from clinching silverware.
It could have been so different after Mikkel Damsgaard’s sweetly struck free-kick put Denmark in front.
But seconds after that opener the camera panned to the England captain, who could be seen urging his team-mates to stay focused. It took Bricknell back to the boy eager to lead from the front as a youngster.
“No, you don’t see six-year-old leaders, but the thing I would say is he wanted to take the free-kicks, he wanted to take the penalties,” Kane’s old Ridgeway Rovers manager told the PA news agency.
“And if we were a goal behind, he was one of the ones who would pump their fist up and try to get you back in the game.
“I thought he was exceptional against Denmark. I don’t know if I am biased or not these days but I just thought he was unreal.
“The pass through to (Bukayo) Saka was world class. He put another couple of passes through, he scored the penalty – he did a one-two off the goalkeeper! And when England sat back and the Danes had a corner, it was him heading the ball out.”
Bricknell first crossed paths with Kane when the Walthamstow-born forward turned up to training for the under-six side at Ridgeway Rovers, where David Beckham also played as a junior. However, he initially caught the eye stopping goals, not scoring them.
The now-Tottenham scout explained: “He wasn’t a goalkeeper but we were doing a shooting session so I asked for someone to go in goal and he put his hand up. I thought ‘great, I have got a goalkeeper’.
“He was very good and you don’t get many goalkeepers at six years of age. He wasn’t scared or nothing so it was good.
“But about half an hour afterwards one of the parents came up to me and said ‘Dave, you do realise he is not a goalkeeper’. So he went out on the pitch and he was very good at that as well!”
Once out of goal, it did not take Kane long to impress in a talented side boasting two team-mates who also made it professionally – Jordan Archer of QPR and China international Nico Yennaris.
After spending three years at Ridgeway Rovers, the next step for the future England captain was with Arsenal, but he was released and only established himself as a Tottenham regular in 2014 after a spell back at Ridgeway was followed by stints with Watford, Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester during more than a decade of ups and downs for the striker.
“The thing with Harry is he just had so much confidence even then,” Bricknell admitted.
“He said the other day in one of his interviews, if he misses, he knows there will be another coming around the corner soon and he never dwelled on misses.
“Following his career, he always had the drive, belief and determination. I think he wanted to prove people wrong because he had the knock-back early on.
“He had very supportive parents and a supportive family and he had a little bit of luck because if Roberto Soldado and (Emmanuel) Adebayor could do the job, he wouldn’t have got much of a look in at Tottenham.
“So, you need a bit of luck but you have to be able to get over knock-backs and have that self-belief. Apart from being a very talented footballer, self-belief is his main characteristic.”
UEFA B Licence coach Bricknell, who now coaches at east London-based Ryan FC, still bumps into Kane’s parents Kim and Patrick from time to time and had the Tottenham forward attend a trophy presentation at Ridgeway Rovers 10 years ago, while the striker also paid a visit to his old club in 2015.
The Spurs fan will be one of many filled with pride on Sunday when the 27-year-old, who has scored 38 goals for England, leads his country out for the European Championship final and says his story is an inspiration to the next generation.
“I see his mum and dad every now and again and we always have a chat and say hello,” Bricknell said.
“He is a consummate professional and you don’t hear any bad stories about him.
“Apparently he is the best trainer for Spurs as well, so if you are saying to a young kid ‘this is what you need to do to become professional’, you look at Harry. The way he conducts himself is brilliant.”