Harry Kane & Co can inspire a new wave of talent
Harry Kane wants to inspire the next generation by leading England all the way to the World Cup 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 night – 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 Maguire 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.”