Mention the World Cup to any England fan and you’ll be greeted with a wistful discourse about 1966 or a tear-jerking tale of Italia ’90.
But could things be about to improve?
Hopes rest on the shoulders of twenty-four-year-old Harry Edward Kane. A good English name; kings of the middle ages honoured with the modern twist.
Born to an English mother and Irish father in Walthamstow, Kane has been at Tottenham since 2004 after spells with Arsenal and Watford. The one that got away for both clubs, he continues to punish them mercilessly in the Premier League.
Kane enjoys the friction of the London derby. The frisson in the air brings the best out of him with 21 goals in 32 capital clashes, a record only bettered by Arsenal legend Thierry Henry.
England dreams of a striker performing on the world stage. Euro 2016 was his time to establish himself; it didn’t work as the Three Lions tripped up against Iceland. But against Europe’s elite for Spurs this season, he tormented the Champions League’s best defenders.
Kane wants more than that, and until injury interrupted his season, was destined for his best-ever season in front of goal. Marginally down on last year with 35 in 39 compared to 35 in 38 games, he will be back before the end of the season and that total will increase.
England will benefit from the rest. Four goals in the autumn games saw England through to Russia and a group from which they ought to qualify.
Kane will be fresh for the finals where Belgium are the favourites to top the group. They are dark horses for the tournament, just as they were at Euro 2016. Wales tripped them up then; can England do the same?
Panama did little to change their ‘whipping boy’ status during their recent 1 – 0 and 6 – 0 defeats to Denmark and Switzerland respectively. Tunisia could trip England up but Gareth Southgate’s squad has shown they are not to be taken lightly in recent matches which included their first win in the Netherlands since the Eurovision Song Contest was transmitted in black and white.
With 12 goals in 23 appearances, Kane is scoring at a rate which will see him quickly surpass Wayne Rooney’s record of 53 goals. He should go to three World Cups including this summer and the same number of European Championships; he will surely feature in 100 more internationals, injury and form willing. Most caps and most goals? Nothing is beyond the striker.
By Ian Hurtz