England extra time.jpg

England extra time

EVEN WHEN England’s World Cup squad is just indulging in a spot of relaxation, you can guarantee that the media is never far away. Such was the case on May 17 at the resort of Vale do Lobo in the Algarve. Journalists and photographers from around the world were at the training session, jostling for the best position from which to photograph and record the squad in action. With the absence of Rooney, Gerrard and Beckham, and the FA’s determination not to over-expose Theo Walcott, it could have been quite a low-key afternoon, but with the squad putting on a very encouraging performance, the press just couldn’t get enough of Eriksson’s boys!

Although it wasn’t the hardest of training sessions, England’s boys certainly gave a good show for the ticket-holding members of the public and 100 or so members of the press. While the team was warming up, goodie bags were distributed to the children in the crowd and, with Louletano Desporto Clube’s junior football squad there, it was lucky the FA had brought a few extras!

Carragher, Crouch and Hargreaves were put through their paces for the first time since arriving in the Algarve, and the newest squad member, Theo Walcott, put in an impressive performance.

Speaking to The Resident’s Louise Pimm, a member of England’s management said that Vale do Lobo had done an excellent job: “We couldn’t have asked for anything better. There’s the right balance of relaxation and light training, it’s just what the boys wanted.”

Once the hour session at Vale do Lobo’s football pitch was over, interviews with selected players took place next to the resort’s private beach. By the time Michael Owen had reached the table of journalists, via half-a-dozen TV crews and radio reporters, his monologue was word-perfect. “Because of my injury, I’ve been on the treadmills and bikes for the past three months. Although it’s driven me crackers, it’s got me into shape. If we had a World Cup game tomorrow, I’d be in a fit condition.”

At another table, Frank Lampard stated: “We’ve got to get our preparation right this year, we want to win.” Gary Neville revealed to The Resident how impressed the whole squad was with the facilities at Vale do Lobo: “It’s given us the chance to chill out a bit before the proper training starts. The resort is so big, everyone has found something to do to relax.”

John Terry revealed that he and his partner are getting ready for the arrival of twins, and even though he was the only member of the squad not to complete the ‘crossbar challenge’ in training, everyone learned what a nice bloke Peter Crouch is.

Although David Beckham and Victoria did not arrive at the resort until Wednesday afternoon, David did join his teammates for training on Thursday and Friday morning and Victoria enjoyed the resort’s leisure facilities, before they left to prepare themselves for their World Cup Ball at Beckhingham Palace on May 21.

Speaking to The Resident a few days after the players left, Lorna Lee, PR Manager at Vale do Lobo, said that no one had a bad word to say about the resort. “The whole squad enjoyed themselves. They were here to relax and, for that, Vale do Lobo delivered excellent facilities,” she said.

This will be Sven’s last tournament in charge of England before he leaves in July. When asked, in Portuguese, at the press conference following the players’ interviews, about rumours of him going to Benfica, he was unflustered and answered back in perfect Portuguese: “I too have heard the rumours, but nothing from Benfica. I hope I will have a job somewhere in the world after the World Cup, but where, I don’t know.” These rumours have now been quashed, as Benfica revealed this week that Fernando Santos will be the successor to Ronald Koeman.

Just when it seemed that nothing really newsworthy was happening, there was a commotion during Sven’s press conference. Chairs, tables and anyone under 12 stone went flying, as photographers scrambled to get a decent shot. Had Rooney arrived to announce he would be fit? Had Big Phil popped in to say he’d had a change of heart? No, Theo Walcott and his girlfriend were using the hotel cash-point. Roll on Germany ….