Harry Kane has led a chorus of praise for the finishing school run by England’s little-known striker coach Allan Russell.
Glaswegian Russell began as a youth player at Rangers but never made the grade at the top level, lining up for the likes of Hamilton, St Mirren and Airdrie, and barely made an impact when he tried his luck south of the border with Mansfield, Macclesfield and Forest Green.
Yet the 37-year-old is the man entrusted by Gareth Southgate with honing the scoring prowess of some of the Premier League’s top marksman over the past year.
Russell runs a consultancy called Superior Striker and styles himself as “the world’s number one striker specific coach”. That may be a bold claim but England have no reason to question it at present, having scored eight times in their first two World Cup outings.
All but three of those have come from corners or free-kick routines – one of Russell’s areas of expertise – and Kane, who topped the tournament scoring charts with five after England’s second game, is happy to share the credit.
“He does our attacking set plays, which are going pretty well so far. Every little helps – particularly the little details at this level,” he said.
“It’s good, because we do a lot of work in training. He does finishing sessions with us, tells us about opposition defenders, goalkeepers and telling us maybe where we can exploit a weakness.
“We are all top players, so he is not running through technique telling us how to strike a ball. It’s just little stuff to maybe give us an edge.”
England boss Southgate has also highlighted Russell’s contribution on the training pitch, having specifically targeted an increase in England’s efficiency at dead ball situations.
“We’ve identified that as a key area in tournaments and it’s a key area we felt we could improve upon,” he said.
“If anything, Allan is spending more time on those. We’re giving it the right sort of attention during training.”