FA Editor Jamie Bradbury blogs from the England camp in Denmark. Today the Three Lions take on Ukraine and the unity is strong within the camp…
Nathan Delfouneso has just clocked in for another shift in the team office at Kellers Park. As promised, straight from the team’s set-play practice session at Fredericia this morning, he arrived to join the staff as they beaver away preparing for tonight’s game.
As I’ve previously mentioned, Nathan has been almost a permanent fixture in here, partly because it’s the only place with English TV, particularly Sky Sports News (Fabregas is linked with Barcelona). But also Nathan has known most of the staff here since he first joined up with an England squad as a sprightly 15-year-old for the Victory Shield in October 2006 and feels at home in this environment. Kyle Walker also drops in to make a cup of tea, as we’ve brought some teabags with us from home.
That’s not unusual though. Throughout our first week in Denmark, all the players have spent time here, or in the other areas that general become meeting points for players and staff to chew the fat. On Monday, the morning after our 1-1 draw against Spain, I went and sat with Michael Mancienne in the medical room while he chilled as Chris Smalling and Phil Jones had a massage.
We spoke a bit about the match, about how much he’s looking forward to his move to Germany, and also lined up a match on our ipads playing ‘Super Stickman Golf’. Two years ago in Sweden I had my most remarkable darts encounter ever with Michael. Fancying myself on the oche following hours of training in my loft and TheFA.com team’s favourite pub in Fitzrovia, the Champion, Michael challenged me to a game.
It didn’t pan out as expected, and Michael was pretty decent with the ‘arrers’. The problem was when it came to finishing, neither of us could hit the doubles. After about ten minutes of continually busting in double one we suggested nearest to the bull would be the best way to settle it. I stepped up first and sunk it straight in the 50. I couldn’t lose. Then Michael followed me in, sneaking in between my dart and the wire to hit another bullseye. We shook on an honourable draw!
Back to Denmark and the atmosphere is the same. The Kit Room with Pat Frost is a perfect place for the players and staff to gather to relax, and more often than not Frank Fielding or Henri Lansbury will be in there setting the world to rights. The Meal Room and Games room is often full of X-Boxers or table-tennis players, Marc Albrighton and James Tomkins are regularly playing ping-pong, Dannys Welbeck and Rose are among the Pro-Evolution experts.
There are also nice places to walk and get fresh air; with players and staff moseying down together to the quiet marina at the bottom of the hill for a coffee.
The group have also been very welcoming to the media who are staying nearby, as well as Sky Sports’ Martin Tyler who is once again staying in the team hotel as he did for the last two tournaments.
With Scott Field (our Press Officer) at the wheel, Martin joined myself, FATV’s Jon Dyson and Jordan Henderson on the six-seater golf buggy to head across to the clubhouse for interviews. It was a bumpy ride as I spoke to Jordan on camera but it was much smoother when Jordan talked to Sky Sports, Five Live and the written press.
Then we went back to pick up Frank Fielding who’s turn it was after the new Liverpool man. It was a slighlty more action-packed return as I interviewed Frank. We had to stop on-route, almost on the fairway, as golfers drove their tee-shots above our cart. Henri and Pat also followed and were witness to Frank’s emotional briefing with the press, as he spoke about his life and becoming a professional.
Frank’s dad moved to Malaysia for business while he stayed in England with his mum to try to make it at Blackburn. Shortly before his first team debut, on loan at Wycombe, Frank was informed that his dad had passed away just days before he was due to come to see him play. Frank is philosophical about it, but the fact his dad didn’t see him perform still gets to him. It got to us all. A very moving story.
It’s in his dad’s honour that he has a tattoo on his left arm, with the phrase that also appears on his dad’s gravestone: “Loved too much to be forgotten”.
Frank’s stories – including his one about his meeting with Wayne Rooney when he was called into the Senior Squad in Auigust – has endeared him to the press and a look at today’s papers back home will see features on his story. But he’s not the only one. All the lads have been superb when either Scott or myself have asked them to do anything for the press or TheFA.com.
While the focus inside the camp has been on Ukraine since Monday morning, the performance of Spain has continued to see questions about Sunday’s match being raised.
Jack Rodwell summed it up well for me in Tuesday’s press conference when he said: “We showed that when our backs are against the wall we’ll come out fighting. They play a certain way, our English players have a different way, Brazil also play a different way.”
And on the pitch on Sunday England demonstrated the team spirit and unity we see every day around the hotel. It really fills you with confidence.
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