England Euro 2024 stars helped by Stokes as Kane issues rallying cry | Football | Sport

England captain Harry Kane has shared how a meeting with cricket star Ben Stokes is helping Gareth Southgate’s squad weather the storm of criticism threatening to derail their Euro 2024 campaign.

Stokes, who has won World Cups in two formats and helped reinvent the Test team with his aggressive ‘Bazball’ approach, was invited to speak to the team ahead of a pre-tournament friendly in Newcastle last May.

Having faced many of his own challenges, including injuries and a court case, Stokes’ advice could prove invaluable as England aim for the country’s first triumph since 1966 in Germany.

Kane said: “Stokesy was great – first and foremost, what a top guy. We all know how successful he’s been and it was great for a lot of us to talk to him.

“We had an hour’s conversation, just going through the highs and lows of his career and what he’s done to maintain a high level and to also improve. I thought it was really beneficial.

“He’s a great guy, he speaks really well and he’s had great experiences in his sport under the highest pressure. It’s something we’ve done throughout the years.

“Gareth is quite keen on athletes from other sports to come in to try to help us in different environments. The lads really enjoyed Ben being there.”

The Bazball philosophy of Brendon McCullum, famously adopted by Stokes, helped reinvent England’s Test team.

Despite the growing criticism directed at Southgate for his team’s lack of aggressive play, Kane argues the key lies in maintaining the right mindset, not adopting attacking tactics just to appase supporters.

Kane said: “I think the biggest thing that I got from talking to Ben was that it’s not necessarily about being attacking, it’s more about making sure everybody is comfortable about what they’re doing.

“It wasn’t that everyone had to do the same thing by going gung-ho and attacking. It’s more about what’s the best way of scoring runs? Okay you do that’.

“It’s more about making everyone feel comfortable in their environment. That’s the biggest thing.

“This tournament in general hasn’t been high scoring and as a team we haven’t scored a lot of goals. It’s about being comfortable on the pitch. We have a plan and it’s about executing that plan.

“That’s the biggest thing, about people doing what they feel in high pressure games – that’s when you come out and do your best.”

With England set to face Slovenia in the last 16 of the Euros, Kane is hopeful of steering the team towards victory.

Following last week’s uninspiring 0-0 draw with Slovenia in their final group game, Southgate faced the wrath of disgruntled fans who demanded a more exciting performance.

For the upcoming game in Gelsenkirchen, an excess of 50,000 supporters are anticipated and Kane has issued a rallying cry for the Three Lions’ fanbase to make their presence felt and keep believing.

He expressed: “I thought the support for the Slovenia game was incredible. The second half was one of the best I had ever experienced, particularly in a major tournament.

“From my point of view, it’s more of the same. A few caught the headlines at the end because of what they did, but in general the support has been fantastic here. It is always amazing, particularly in major tournaments.

“I know 99.5 per cent of the fans will be behind us. They want us to win and we want to win for them.

“The more they can bring the atmosphere they brought in the last game, the better for us, the more it will push us on and we will use that energy on the pitch. We always want to make the fans proud and that is no different tomorrow.”

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