Life with Eng­land: Big Macs, bore­dom and huge phone bills


Daily Mail - - Martin Samuel - MARTIN KEOWN

ONE of Fabio Capello’s biggest chal­lenges over the next few weeks will be keep­ing his squad of 23 play­ers fo­cused, happy and en­ter­tained. I found out through go­ing t o ma­jor cham­pi­onships with f our Eng­land man­agers that the ex­pe­ri­ence varies a lot.

One key el­e­ment that changed dra­mat­i­cally over the years is food be­cause you get bored with eat­ing the same things all the time. That’s why Glenn Hod­dle would throw us the oc­ca­sional bar­be­cue and Sven Go­ran Eriks­son would go to the ex­tent of hav­ing a res­tau­rant closed for the evening so that we could eat in peace.

It was healthy to have a change of scenery. When I went to the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship in Swe­den in 1992 un­der Gra­ham Tay­lor, there were lots of treats for play­ers, such as chips and pizza but it was still mo­not­o­nous.

The year af­ter when we were on tour in Amer­ica, we were so bored that we per­suaded our doc­tor John Crane to tell the coach driver to pull over at a McDon­ald’s and we ran in and got 30 Big Macs.

Un­der Hod­dle at France ’ 98 there were no more fatty foods. He also brought in Dr Yann Rougier, who was i n charge of giv­ing each of us sup­ple­ments. We were each tested to see what we needed and then some play­ers were given in­tra­venous in­jec­tions of es­sen­tial vi­ta­mins and min­er­als. The whole process felt a lot health­ier.

Kevin Kee­gan main­tained that, and Dr Crane also used to come round knock­ing on doors ev­ery evening with

“We all went ori­en­teer­ing and Carl­ton Palmer got lost”

the manda­tory bar of choco­late. That was more an ex­cuse to look in on us and check we were OK — though you’d al­ways try to get an ex­tra bar in case the sup­ply ran out.

Be­fore Swe­den in 1992 we went to a mis­er­able train­ing camp. We had no TVs, no phones and we were each given a phone card for the one phone box at the camp. It felt like a prison. There was some light re­lief when we went ori­en­teer­ing. We had all had psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­fil­ing and were put in groups with peo­ple who were sup­pos­edly sim­i­lar to us.

I was with Des Walker but I’m not sure why. The fun­ni­est part of it was that Carl­ton Palmer got lost and we were still try­ing to find him in the dark two or three hours af­ter ev­ery­one else had fin­ished. Carl­ton was at the cen­tre of things again when we went to Pinewood Stu­dios for din­ner and they put on a show in which ter­ror­ists pre­tended to kidnap him. It was all good fun and some­thing dif­fer­ent.

But in gen­eral the trip was a bad idea and you wanted to go home be­cause of the lone­li­ness — you didn’t want to go to a ma­jor cham­pi­onship.

Once we were in Swe­den, there was noth­ing to do ex­cept build up your phone bill and I thought the FA were pay­ing for mine. I don’t know what was a big­ger shock: get­ting knocked out in the group stages or be­ing pre­sented with my bill af­ter­wards.

Hod­dle picked a very good venue in La Baule, France, six years later be­cause all the rooms were set out around the swim­ming pool and it backed on to a golf course. There was even an area where we could prac­tise set pieces.

The at­ten­tion to de­tail was out­stand­ing and was a mil­lion miles away from 1992. It was thor­oughly en­joy­able. There was a base­ment area be­low the apart­ments where we spent most of our time, watch­ing the other games in a re­laxed mode. Un­der Kee­gan and Eriks­son we also had ar­eas with arcade games and the play­ers loved that.

You can’t talk about Hod­dle with­out men­tion­ing his faith-healer, Eileen Drew­ery. I was one of the few play­ers who just said no, but play­ers def­i­nitely went to see her be­cause they were wor­ried they wouldn’t get into the squad if they didn’t. Dar­ren An­der­ton spent a lot of time with her but peo­ple gen­er­ally took the mick, par­tic­u­larly Ray Par­lour who went in and asked for a short back and sides when she put her hands on his head.

Un­der Kee­gan, there was an em­pha­sis on the feel­good fac­tor and maybe less so on tac­tics. The most con­fi­dent I ever felt in an Eng­land shirt was un­der him be­cause I was hav­ing f un. We played cards a lot, we had our amuse­ment ar­cades and race nights — gam­bling on horse races we watched on video or DVD — re­ally took off. One night Kee­gan’s coach Arthur Cox pushed Kee­gan into the room on a steel skip, as if he was rid­ing a horse. It was hi­lar­i­ous.

Things were a lot calmer un­der Sven but it was very no­tice­able how many staff there were. When we sat down to din­ner, there were more staff than play­ers. There was even a lit­tle ta­ble of FA del­e­gates. Sven gave clear in­struc­tions, and train­ing — car­ried out by the grin­ning Cheshire cat Steve McClaren — was of a high in­ten­sity. His last team talk be­fore we l eft f or matches was him lean­ing over the small­est tac­tics board you’ve ever seen.

I al­ways made sure I was sat as close as pos­si­ble so I could ac­tu­ally see what was go­ing on. But there was never the feel­ing of hair on the back of your neck, which was maybe the missing link.

Per­haps a per­fect blend would be the f un there was un­der Kee­gan and Sven’s or­gan­i­sa­tion. Achiev­ing that bal­ance for Capello is no easy task but it is vi­tal.

Sven’s men: Keown and Beck­ham in 2002

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