Daily Mail

A pitch like carpet, security screening and calls to prayer

Welcome to England training... Qatar style

- by SAMI MOKBEL Chief Football Reporter in Doha

ENGLAND have arrived at their training base at the Al Wakrah Sports Complex — not that you could miss it. Signs of the English invasion are present everywhere you look around the complex — the facility Gareth Southgate’s men will get to know like the backs of their hands by the time they return home, hopefully on December 19 having won the World Cup.

The locals are proud to be hosting England and they clearly want to shout it from the rooftops. As you approach England’s training HQ here in Doha, the adjacent roundabout on Majlis Al Taawon Street that leads to the training centre entrance is decorated with a giant inflatable football adorned with the Three Lions badge.

If that goes unnoticed, the rebranding of the vast futsal arena housing the FA’s media centre for the tournament rams the message home.

‘ ENGLAND’ is emblazoned above the entrance, with two extra Three Lions badges thrown in for good measure.

Upon their arrival at the Souq Al Wakra team hotel on Tuesday night, players entered their rooms to be greeted with framed photos of their loved ones. It’s those little touches that go a long way. Or more accurately, it’s those little touches the FA hope will see England go all the way.

Yet, as hard as they try to make the players familiar with their surroundin­gs, there are constant reminders of their location and the culture behind why this World Cup will be such an unusual experience — none more so than the atmospheri­c call to prayer that echoed round the local area just minutes after the players emerged for their training session yesterday.

In addition, everyone that enters the training centre must pass through airport-style screening.

As you walk into the 12,000capacit­y Saoud bin Abdulrahma­n Stadium that will house all of England’s outdoor training sessions, you are immediatel­y struck by how plush the grass is. Like carpet.

Keeping the ball will be key to England’s game plan given the heat. The pristinely prepared

pitch will provide the perfect conditions to hone that game plan.

By the time England’s players emerged for their first training session at 4.30pm local time, the sun was setting and temperatur­es were much cooler. Training earlier in the day would have been significan­tly more taxing.

Though this wasn’t their first workout of the day — the players completed a light yoga session at the team hotel beforehand.

Assistant coaches Chris Powell

and Paul Nevin were first out to survey the scene. They were soon joined by Southgate’s trusted No 2 Steve Holland, the trio pensively plotting as they waited for the players. Southgate joined them, taking his place — arms crossed — next to Holland.

Kalvin Phillips, his hair in braids, was the first player to emerge, clearly champing at the bit given how little football he has played this season. Arsenal duo Ben White and Aaron Ramsdale were close behind him, followed by inseparabl­e boyhood friends Declan Rice and Mason Mount — a scene Chelsea hope to recreate at Stamford Bridge next season.

England recorded a clean bill of health for their first session, with all 26 players making it out for training. Southgate will be desperate for that to continue.

The England manager, standing in conversati­on with his vicecaptai­n Jordan Henderson, was happy to delegate the running of this training session to Holland, who promptly called his players into a huddle. Holland, stood in the middle, held court as the players hung on his every word.

The coach first provided instructio­ns for the training session — but also expressed how much it would mean to all of them to go deep into this tournament.

‘It will take focus and dedication,’ Holland told them as they dispersed to run two laps of the pitch before stretching.

Yesterday’s session was planned to be light after Tuesday was mostly spent travelling.

Things will grow more serious today, when players and staff will fulfil their promise of meeting migrant workers amid concerns over Qatar’s human-rights record.

The FA have invited a group to their complex for an ‘engagement session’ as they look to learn more about some of the experience­s they faced in building the infrastruc­ture for the tournament.

After that, the squad will partake in a heavier training session with an eye towards Monday’s clash with Iran. By then, players will have a better idea of the side Southgate is likely to select for his team’s opener.

By the looks of things, they can’t blame the facilities if they fail.


 ?? ?? TOP cyclists have long appreciate­d the benefit of shaving their legs for a ‘marginal gain’ but it’s never been such a trend among footballer­s. Perhaps Arsenal’s Ben White is hoping the aerodynami­c benefits will help him keep up with speedy World Cup strikers.
TOP cyclists have long appreciate­d the benefit of shaving their legs for a ‘marginal gain’ but it’s never been such a trend among footballer­s. Perhaps Arsenal’s Ben White is hoping the aerodynami­c benefits will help him keep up with speedy World Cup strikers.
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