England captain Harry Kane is drawing inspiration from the country’s 1966 World Cup heroes as the striker looks to fire his team to a surprise final appearance in Moscow.
The Tottenham forward is the tournament’s leading scorer with six goals, putting him level with Gary Lineker’s 1986 haul, ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final against Croatia.
Kane became just the third England player to hit a World Cup hat-trick in the 6-1 rout of Panama, joining Lineker and Geoff Hurst, the star of the 1966 final victory over West Germany.
Hurst believes Gareth Southgate’s side can match their finest hour and go all the way in Russia, and Kane admits the support from such England greats is further incentive to succeed.
“To meet any heroes from ’66 is incredible. It’s so much inspiration. Obviously it’s been a long time since England have done well in a major tournament,” Kane said after the 2-0 quarter-final win over Sweden.
“I’m proud to make ex-players proud and I’m sure it’s bringing back memories for them. We said we want to write our own history and hopefully we can go one step further and get to the final.”
England are through to the last four of the World Cup for the first time since 1990, when they lost to Germany on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Turin.
“A lot of us weren’t even born when that was happening,” said the 24-year-old Kane.
“We’ve just got to try and keep it going, we’re one step closer to what is the biggest game as a professional.”
As World Cup fever mounts back home during a long summer heatwave, the country is hopeful of reaching a first final in more than half a century.
– ‘Finish the job’ –
Almost 20 million people in Britain tuned in for the victory over Sweden, not accounting for the many more who watched in pubs and public viewing areas.
“We feel proud to make the fans proud because that’s what we wanted to do when we set out,” Kane said.
“We wanted to play good football, we wanted to work hard, play with a passion and I thought we’ve done that. We’re enjoying it.”
“No one wants to go home. Everyone wants to finish the job and we’re excited to try and do that.”
For Kane, who has scored 20 or more Premier League goals four seasons running, it was not until after the 2014 World Cup that he established himself at the top level.
Following a series of loan moves, he quickly debunked any beliefs he was a one-season wonder, and scored just 79 seconds into his England debut against Lithuania in March 2015.
Kane is mindful of the influence he now wields as one of the game’s top stars, but the status is one he appears to embrace.
“As a player I know I have a job, on and off the pitch, to inspire people,” he said.
“To inspire kids watching this tournament is amazing because I was one of those kids growing up who wanted to play for England.
“So to be here, to be part of it, I’m so proud.”
Kane and Dele Alli, two of five Tottenham players in the current squad, were part of England’s doomed Euro 2016 campaign, but they can expect a far more welcoming reception regardless of how their Russian adventure ends.
“We’re looking forward to finishing strong and whatever happens we can say we’re proud of each other,” said Kane.