Belfast Telegraph

Harry Kane hoping to inspire next generation as England bid to reach final

Kane knows his place in a lineage that goes back to England’s only tournament victory on home soil 52 years ago.

Harry Kane is brimming with pride at leading England’s unexpected tilt at World Cup glory and wants to inspire the next generation by going all the way to the final.

The Tottenham striker will become the first man to captain the Three Lions in a semi-final since Terry Butcher in 1990 when he takes the armband against Croatia on Wednesday – and the significance of the moment is not lost on him.

Kane was not even born when Sir Bobby Robson’s side lost in agonising fashion to West Germany, a penalty shootout in Turin, but knows his place in a lineage that goes back to the country’s only tournament victory on home soil 52 years ago.

He has met the hero of the 1966 final, Sir Geoff Hurst, and knows he could be just a week away from emulating an achievement many feared would never be repeated.

“It’s amazing to meet any heroes from ’66 and it gives you so much inspiration, obviously it’s been a long time since England have done well in a major tournament,” he said.

“As a player and as a professional I know that I have a job, on and off the pitch, to inspire people and inspire kids watching this tournament. It’s amazing because I was one of those kids growing up who wanted to play for England. So to be here now, leading this team out, I’m so proud.

“No-one wants to go home. Everyone wants to finish the job and we are excited to try and do that. We want to be here till the end. We are one step closer to what is the biggest game in football as a professional.”

Kane is the frontman of this England squad in more ways than one, shouldering an admirable amount of the public interest and expectation, rarely ducking the spotlight and chipping in with the small matter of six goals – more than anyone else in the competition.

But he is far from a solo act. Defender Harry Maguire has been a key performer, a towering aerial presence in both boxes who took his turn on centre stage when he powered home the opener in the quarter-final defeat of Sweden.

It is well known by now that he travelled as a fan to witness England’s miserable Euro 2016 campaign, giving him a clear perspective on the side’s progress.

He insists their trip to Russia will go be greeted as a partial triumph whatever happens at the Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday, but is confident there is still more to give.

“I think without a doubt it’s a success as it is now, without a doubt,” said the Leicester defender.

“We’re in the semi-final, we’ve only done that three times so it’s a really big achievement by the lads, but we believe we can definitely reach the final.

“It’s a big ask but something we believe we can do. I can’t speak about previous guys because I wasn’t in the squad, but I know this squad. I know they’re really passionate, proud and honoured to wear the badge.”

Several England players are understood to be sharing in the nation’s rediscovery of terrace anthem Three Lions and it is no surprise that Maguire is among them.

“It means so much to us all, we know the chants, we’re singing the chants, we’re going along with them.”

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford arrived at the tournament with just three caps to his name but has established himself as a fan favourite thanks to his penalty save against Colombia and a man-of-the-match turn against Sweden.

He is relishing his newfound status as a role model for up-and-coming keepers but remains humble about his place in the wider scheme of world football.

“I am just a normal lad from Washington and I just keep plugging away,” said the Everton number one.

“But it is really nice if that is happening because it means I am doing my best for my country, my family and myself.

“I don’t worry about being the best keeper in the tournament. I just focus on being the best I possibly can for myself and for the team.

“I never put myself up against anybody. I don’t think that is right because every keeper is different. Everyone has their own strengths and everyone has things they can work on.”

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