GARETH’S BAND OF HAPPY CAMPERS

Daily Mail - - Sports - MATT LAWTON in the Eng­land camp, Repino

COM­PARED to events in the Span­ish camp, the at­mos­phere at Eng­land’s head­quar­ters here yes­ter­day was a pic­ture of tran­quil­lity.

With Mar­cus Rash­ford ab­sent from the first train­ing ses­sion but ap­par­ently not a con­cern for Mon­day’s open­ing World Cup en­counter with Tu­nisia, the one Eng­land player made avail­able to the writ­ten press was asked how he was sleep­ing when it never re­ally gets dark here at this time of year.

‘We’ve got blinds and cur­tains to deal with that,’ said Ash­ley Young dis­mis­sively, sug­gest­ing that the FA re­ally have thought of ev­ery­thing.

Eng­land clearly have learned from the lessons of the past. In Chan­tilly two years ago, as­sis­tant coach Gary Neville was said to have com­plained that the pil­lows were too fluffy in their five- star ho­tel and one player was un­happy with the lack of joss sticks.

Gareth South­gate seems to have hap­pier campers at this World Cup. Play­ers checked into their rooms on Tues­day night to discover pho­to­graphs of their loved ones al­ready hang­ing on the walls.

The more cyn­i­cal out there might not be sur­prised to hear that wives and part­ners se­cretly con­spired with the FA to make it hap­pen but it was a nice touch all the same.

Of more rel­e­vance to per­for­mance, and straight out of the Team Sky man­ual, were the spe­cial mat­tresses pro­vided for each player. Of less rel­e­vance was a screen­ing of the lat­est Love Is­land episode, with Jamie Vardy quick to stress that it was of zero in­ter­est to him.

There might not be much to do in this sleepy seaside town but the FA have pro­vided all kinds of en­ter­tain­ment to help pass the time be­tween matches, even in the me­dia cen­tre where their press con­fer­ences are be­ing held.

Housed in a nearby ho­tel, the fa­cil­i­ties in­clude a four-lane bowl­ing al­ley, air hockey, the lat­est FIFA video game and a pool ta­ble. In the team ho­tel there is a driv­ing sim­u­la­tor and a bas­ket­ball hoop.

At the train­ing ground which is nor­mally home to the lo­cal am­a­teur team, Spar­tak Ze­lenogorsk, every ef­fort was made yes­ter­day to ig­nore the re­cent diplo­matic ten­sion be­tween Rus­sia and Bri­tain and put on a united front. South­gate and his play­ers signed au­to­graphs for a 400-strong au­di­ence of lo­cal dig­ni­taries, other guests and their chil­dren. South­gate and Harry Kane also re­ceived gifts in the form of a fancy loaf of bread and an even fancier teapot that might be the clos­est Eng­land get to a tro­phy in the next few weeks. Among the guests was Lind­say Skoll, the min­is­ter and deputy head of the Bri­tish Embassy in Moscow who is here as part of a 12- strong team for the du­ra­tion of the World Cup fol­low­ing the ex­pul­sion of 23 Bri­tish diplo­mats from Moscow back in March. Skoll now has re­spon­si­bil­ity not only for South­gate and his 23 play­ers but for Eng­land’s trav­el­ling fans. ‘In terms of elim­i­nat­ing ex­tra risks we’ve done ev­ery­thing we can,’ she said.

In Repino, it all feels pretty safe. The po­lice pres­ence, com­plete with marks­men watch­ing over Eng­land from sur­round­ing rooftops, is con­sid­er­able and prob­a­bly a bit un­nec­es­sary given how quiet it is.

BuT it makes for a re­lax­ing set­ting for South­gate and his squad as they pre­pare for the tour­na­ment. As Young said: ‘The FA have done a mag­nif­i­cent job for us so every­one feels at home’.

The fo­cus, said Young, is to get off to a win­ning start. Eng­land have not been too good at that over the years, win­ning only five of the 14 open­ing games they have so far con­tested at a World Cup.

‘It is al­ways im­por­tant to make a good start to a tour­na­ment,’ he said. ‘You talk about our re­sults his­tor­i­cally but we are here, we are look­ing to do well in train­ing and do well in that first match. I think you can see from the last two games (against Nige­ria and Costa Rica) that we have started brightly and have been on the front foot.

‘We will work on it this week and I am sure we will get off to a good start.’

Vardy said the play­ers are con­fi­dent, com­par­ing the mood to that which ex­isted in the ti­tlewin­ning Le­ices­ter City dress­ing room.

‘We have all got that men­tal­ity where you just want to win. We want to make sure we are here as win­ners.

‘It feels very sim­i­lar to Le­ices­ter, I am not go­ing to lie. We were ex­actly the same, very close, al­ways want­ing to do things to­gether and hav­ing a laugh and a joke at train­ing.

‘But then once we stepped over the white line it was a dif­fer­ent story.’ And the ho­tel? ‘Very nice,’ he said. ‘I was watch­ing Sky Sports yes­ter­day and a reporter was whis­per­ing be­cause we were hav­ing down time. I don’t think we could have heard him any­way.’

They even had the lat­est Love Is­land. Vardy wasn’t keen

GETTY IMAGES

Play­ing a blinder: Young has no trou­ble sleep­ing

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.