During one of Harry Kane’s meticulous striking drills, Allan Russell would scream at him: ‘Feel the defender!’
Now, you’re probably wondering what a journeyman striker — who scored just nine goals in a nondescript career in English football — can teach Kane, one of the world’s most lethal strikers.
But make no mistake, the England captain listens. So does Gareth Southgate. So much so that the England manager has allowed Russell into his inner sanctum.
The tartan-clad Allan Russell (circled) helps carry out American pop star Christina Aguilera at an MTV awards show back in 2003, when he was still playing for Hamilton
Russell stands alongside England first team coach Steve Holland during Wednesday’s training
The self-styled ‘world’s No 1 striker coach’ has been granted entry to Southgate’s top-secret coach meetings.
When Southgate shuts the door behind him to decide his team and tactics, only his closest confidants are allowed in. Southgate is joined by assistant Steve Holland and goalkeeping coach Martyn Margetson as he considers the decisions that will shape England’s World Cup campaign. It is credit to Russell that he is now included in that think-tank.
The fact he was part of England’s official World Cup photo illustrates his standing within the England senior set-up.
As for ‘feel the defender’, Russell is referring to a striker knowing exactly where his marker is before taking his first touch. If the defender is on your right shoulder, take the ball with the outside of your left and vice versa. It is that meticulousness that could help rebuild England’s tattered reputation in the coming weeks.
The self-styled ‘world’s No 1 striker coach’ enjoyed a successful modelling career in the 2000s
Russell believes the finer details separate the great from the good. As his reputation grows, an increasing number of Premier League strikers are turning to Russell in search of perfection.
Crystal Palace duo Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend are among those to have enlisted the help of Russell. Both speak highly of him. For up to £1,000 per session, you should hope so.
The success of his company Superior Striker is perhaps why Russell isn’t a full-time FA employee, despite his growing influence on the England team. But you can imagine how England players were dubious about his appointment, on an ad-hoc basis, in March 2017.
The only English clubs he played for were Macclesfield, Mansfield and Forest Green Rovers. Couple that with the fact Allan is a client of Terry Byrne’s management company Ten10 Talent — who also look after Southgate and Holland — and you can imagine the squad’s scepticism.
But Allan, with his trusty iPad never too far away, has quickly won over Kane and Co. Indeed, the Tottenham striker once encountered Russell at a Nike photo shoot in the Scotsman’s former career as a model, which also saw him share the stage with pop star Christina Aguilera at an MTV Awards Show.
Russell (centre right) celebrates a goal for Scottish side Kilmarnock during his playing days
Russell played for 10 clubs during a career that spanned between 1999 and 2014
The way Russell struck the football that day resounded with Kane. Years later they are working in tandem. England camp insiders describe Russell as ‘confident and bolshie’. Because he is only recently retired, players have warmed to him.
Russell sounds and looks like a player, Southgate’s men relate to him more than they would a much older coach. His sessions are said to be engaging. He regularly refreshes his drills so the players don’t get bored.
Essentially, Russell’s remit is to extract an extra five per cent out of England’s forwards. It is those marginal gains that could dictate how England perform in this tournament.
Russell has been heavily influenced by NFL coaching techniques during his time spent in the United States playing for Carolina Railhawks and Orange County Blues FC. Video analysis is an integral part of his work.
Kane winning the World Cup golden boot is a video Russell would love to watch over and over again.
He is now considered one of Gareth Southgate’s closest confidants with full access to tactics
Author: Nancy Parker
Nancy Parker is a five time Emmy Award winning journalist and seven time Emmy nominee who has spent almost twenty five years covering news in South Louisiana. She has anchored every prime time newscast at WVUE FOX8 during her twenty year tenure in New Orleans.