The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and Dundee)
England are ‘feeling great’
Sturridge believes ‘special atmosphere’ can help Hodgson’s men achieve greatness and become Euro 2016 champions
Daniel Sturridge believes Euro 2016’s youngest squad have the potential to return from France as champions, especially if England can harness the “special” atmosphere unlike anything the striker has experienced.
Nine months after sealing qualification and three weeks since preparations got under way, Saturday’s Group B opener against Russia is now tantalisingly close for Roy Hodgson’s men.
Relaxed and excited were the buzzwords upon arriving at their Chantilly training base on Monday afternoon, with England’s light-hearted but competitive training session the following day highlighting that vibe.
Outfield players and goalkeepers trained together during an open session watched by hundreds of local children at the Stade des Bourgognes, after which Sturridge says the group atmosphere is not only better than the World Cup two years ago but any club he has played for.
“The feeling is great,” the Liverpool striker said.
“It is probably a little bit more relaxed than before. The group’s younger and everyone is just ready to go. We’ve always had a good camaraderie but this time seems different to me.
“Coming in and seeing how everyone is and how thing are day to-day, just feels different to how it was before.
“Everyone gets on very well. There’s not any animosity or any bad vibes at all.
“Everyone is so happy and, as I said, it’s the best I’ve experienced, even talking about playing at clubs as well.
“It’s a strange feeling to be part of something so special so far.”
Sturridge feels “very fit” now and is thriving off the competition England’s attack-heavy squad brings, giving Hodgson exciting options if not much experience in France.
The 26-year-old is unconcerned by that, though, and believes the youngest squad in France are capable of perhaps ending the country’s 50-year wait for glory.
“I don’t see why not,” Sturridge said, when asked if they could win the tournament.
“You go back years to Manchester United and the Liverpool sides and all these others clubs around the world who have had young squads and had young players who have had a gelling period and they’ve been successful.
“I believe that we can do that. I don’t see why not, why we won’t be successful in the competition because we’re young.
“I don’t think age has anything to do with it. I think it is more so how you play as a team and gel as a team.”
Meanwhile Chris Smalling provided a minor injury scare yesterday but is not expected to miss any training sessions.
The Manchester United defender, one of only three specialist centre-halves in the squad, returned to England’s hotel with an ice pack on his left knee after an afternoon session at the side’s Stade de Bourgognes base.
The Football Association’s medical staff are not thought to be concerned about the issue and the 26-year-old could be back in action on today, providing it does not flare up overnight.
Smalling himself did not appear in major discomfort and was carrying the team’s toy lion mascot as he stepped off the bus.
Left-back Ryan Bertrand has been sidelined for several days already with an unspecified knock, while Chelsea centreback Gary Cahill missed the friendly against Portugal following painkilling injections for a hip complaint.