Eric Dier has warned England’s World Cup rivals the best is yet to come from Harry Kane.
Kane is gunning for the Golden Boot in Russia after scoring five times in the first two games and is desperate to add to his tally against Belgium on Thursday.
Having already qualified for the last 16, England would happily rest their captain and prize asset if he welcomed the break, but that is not the mentality of a man who has already topped the scoring charts twice in the Premier League.
Dier, swatting away the idea that Kane’s scoring splurge had been anything other than predictable, said: “I’m not surprised, no. It’s funny how people still talk about Harry in that way, that we’re supposed to be surprised.
“It’s been a fantastic tournament for him so far. Hopefully he can continue to be a massive part of the tournament for England and show the level he’s shown and an even better level. I believe he has an even better level as well.
“He continues to improve and wants to improve and he shows a fantastic work ethnic and attitude. He is extremely driven. Everyone wants to play every minute of every game. Harry is no different.”
His peripheral role in Russia comes in stark contrast to the important part he played as both midfield anchor and tactical sounding board throughout the qualification period.
As the most naturally defensive midfielder in the squad he could yet have a job to to fulfil in the knockout stages, and is behind only Kane and Jordan Henderson in the captaincy stakes.
Southgate spoke of his admiration for Dier as the pair shared the pre-match press duties at Kaliningrad Stadium.
“He’s a really intelligent player, tactically very, very aware. He is a crucial part of our squad and has been right the way through this journey.
“His mentality when we talked about not starting the games was all about playing his way into the tournament, supporting the team at the right times and recognising he will have a part to pay.
“There’s a real maturity about him as a professional. I always enjoy my discussions with him. He’s always had a valuable contribution in the meetings about the games. He’s back in the team and he’s very, very important to us.”
“It’s only natural we want to play,” he said. “We’re competitive and want to play in every game but that’s not possible in football.
“The mentality of those who haven’t been in the starting XI has been to keep working as hard as possible, keep training and force ourselves an opportunity to play.”