Gareth Southgate reminds Sir Geoff Hurst of Sir Alf Ramsey and the World Cup-winning striker feels England’s current team can now emulate the 1966 side by lifting the trophy.
Southgate’s side are just two victories away from winning the nation’s second ever World Cup, 52 years after West Ham’s Hurst scored a hat-trick in a Wembley final for Ramsey’s men.
A young, inexperienced Three Lions outfit have reached a semi-final with Croatia despite modest expectations and Hurst has added to the praise Southgate has received for their run in Russia.
In the 76-year-old’s opinion, the clear parallel between this England team and the 1966 group is the man in charge.
“In terms of similarities, the leadership at the top is vital,” Hurst, who was speaking at the McDonald’s & FA Community Football Day told Press Association Sport.
“We had a terrific manager in Alf Ramsey, who had a great system and he selected a team that could be successful and had good characters.
“We’ve seen the leadership with Gareth Southgate being very impressive, which has engendered a good team spirit. That seems to be quite evident, with what he says, how the team are celebrating with each other – we’re not seeing any bad stories.
“The difference for me is we had four world-class players at the time, whereas I don’t think you could say that at the moment.
“If we get through this and do well at the next tournament, we’ll be talking about them as world class.”
One of the biggest calls Southgate made prior to departing for Russia was to elect Tottenham forward Harry Kane as his captain.
It has proved a shrewd move, with Kane not only providing a tournament-leading six goals so far but also impressing Hurst with his leadership qualities.
“He’s been terrific – scoring goals and playing wise,” Hurst added.
“As a guy selected to lead the group, it was a very good decision. Remaining grounded as a captain also helps to generate team spirit if your leader is popular.”
England failed to get out of the group at the previous World Cup and two years ago they were embarrassingly dumped out of Euro 2016 by Iceland.
Even after being drawn in a favourable group this time around, few thought they would still be active in the final week of the World Cup but Hurst believes they could be crowned champions following Saturday’s quarter-final success over Sweden.
“You wouldn’t have said we were going to win beforehand,” Hurst added.
“(But) where we are today, I would say, categorically, quite clearly, we can win it, without a shadow of doubt.
“Croatia look a very good team, (they have) very good players in (Luka) Modric and (Ivan) Rakitic, they look a dangerous side.
“I would say I would be disappointed if we didn’t beat them. If you’d have said we could be in the semi-finals, play Croatia, would you want that? We’d say, ‘Yes’.”
:: Sir Geoff Hurst was speaking at the McDonald’s & FA Community Football Day in Swindon. These football days are taking place across the UK this summer, giving thousands of children the chance to enjoy the beautiful game. www.mcdonalds.co.uk/communityfootballdays
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