Young & dangerous
Three Lions raring to go against Tunisia, says Man United defender
ENGLAND spent their first full day in Russia yesterday, and they already looked eager for the football to start. That was the message from the players after they put on an open training session at the ground they have built for themselves in Zelenogorsk, the next village along from Repino where they are based.
FIFA rules state that every World Cup competitor must put on a training session for the benefit of the locals near their base. So England decided to get it out of the way early.
Having a r r i ved i n Repino o n Wednesday, escorted by the police from St Petersburg airport, they drove up from Repino to Zelenogorsk – two points on the same road – yesterday morning.
Here England have built themselves a training ground almost from scratch, but once England’s campaign is done, whether two weeks from now or next month, the ‘Spartak Zelenogorsk’ ground will be handed over to the local community.
So this was a chance for the local community to say thank you and welcome, although it was not entirely organic: 31
Marcus Rashford was 18 years and 120 days when he scored his first goal for the Red Devils, the exact same age that former teammate Wayne Rooney was when he got his first goal for Everton.
Starsport equivalent events are happening all over Russia this week.
Here, the English players had English music played to them – not at the choice of the FA – and they emerged onto the training pitch at midday to the Stones Roses’ This is the one.
Applauded by locals in England shirts and with England flags, they were greeted by girls in traditional Russian dress – gold crown, white shirt, gold blouse, red skirt with gold trim – and by local officials.
Alexander Savinov, the director of the local sport school, was grateful for the new facility he will soon have use of.
But Alexei Kuimov, the head of St Petersburg’s Kurortny District, which contains both Repino and Zelenogorsk, was effusive.
Croatia and Saudi Arabia may be nearby, but Kuimov was delighted to host the team from “the motherland of football”.
He thanked England for choosing Kurortny District, hoped that the local hospitality would bring them success, then wished “outstanding victories” upon them.
Finally, England were presented with a karavaj, a large inedible loaf of bread decorated with two goals, a football and a Russian flag, and a teapot that looked like a more ornamental version of the League Cup trophy.
When training began it was gentle, culminating in possession exercises and small-sided games before the players walked off to sign autographs and pose for selfies.
Ashley Young spoke to the press and gave the clear impression of a man who is just hoping the football starts as soon as possible.
England have two more days of proper training, away from locals and cameras, before flying to Volgograd on Sunday and playing Tunisia on Monday night (Tues 2am Malaysian time).
“We just wanted to get out here and get started. You can see excitement around the team and the squad and the staff,” Young said.
“We feel like we are fully prepared and we are ready for the tournament to start.”
No team or player would ever say otherwise, but Young was clear that England want to make a strong start, to their campaign and to their opening game itself. “It is always important to make a good start to a tournament. You can see from the last two games we have started brightly and on the front foot and if you start like that it can put teams on the back foot,” he added. “And that is what we are looking to do come the first game.” – The Independent El Brujo Mayor,