Sven’s squad soak up the Algarve sun.jpg

Sven’s squad soak up the Algarve sun

LAMPARD, Terry, Owen and co., have been enjoying the Algarvean sunshine this week, while training and relaxing at Vale do Lobo. The majority of England’s World Cup football squad and their families, have been staying at the luxury resort, which has offered them some quality relaxation time, and seen the boys undergo light training before their intensive preparation begins for the World Cup in Germany next month. The boys from blighty will begin their campaign to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy on Saturday, June 10, against Paraguay at 2pm.

After the success of Manchester United’s pre-season training at Vale do Lobo at the end of June 2005, Sven-Göran Eriksson decided that the Algarve would be best suited to offer his players a relaxed pre-tournament break. Sven wanted the England World Cup squad to have “a relaxing, enjoyable time during their first week of preparation for the World Cup,” and the English Football Association (FA) chose Vale do Lobo to host the squad’s training camp.

The England entourage, comprising the team’s management, training staff, players, wives, girlfriends and families, left Luton Airport on Monday, May 15, in their British Airways chartered jet, and arrived that afternoon at Faro airport at 5.30pm. They were then driven, in three silver coaches with a police motorcycle escort, to the resort of Vale do Lobo, a 20 minute journey away.

However, five players that were named in the 23 man England squad by Sven this week, have been absent from the camp. Arsenal duo, Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole remained with the Gunners, due to their Champions League final against Barcelona, which took place on Wednesday this week. However, Walcott, who is only 17 and yet to play a Premiership game for Arsenal, joined his new international team mates, as Arsene Wenger left him out of the Arsenal squad, after reaching an agreement with Eriksson. Stephen Gerrard was also given permission to miss the training camp in the Algarve. The midfielder had been given the week off to rest and spend time with his new daughter. Skipper, David Beckham joined his England team mates on Wednesday, after playing in Real Madrid’s final game of the season. Rooney, who has been picked to wear the number nine shirt, even though he is currently out with a broken foot and battling to be fit for the tournament, stayed in England for intensive treatment on his injury with the Manchester United team doctors.

Speaking to The Resident’s Louise Pimm a few days before the players arrived, Alda Filipe, Communications Director at Vale do Lobo, said that security at the resort had to be stepped up for the week. “With so much interest in the team from the public and the media, we had to draught in extra security, you can’t imagine what people will do to get a glimpse of their heroes,” she said. In addition, the players are rumoured to have brought their own security with them from England.

The England party have been staying in the exclusive villas of the 400-hectare resort. Apparently, after paparazzi pictures circulated of David Beckham in his underwear on his hotel balcony in Lisbon during Euro 2004, one of the conditions this year, was for a large fence to be erected outside his accommodation, to keep out prying eyes, camera lenses or enthusiastic fans.

The squad have had private training sessions, every morning, at the Vale do Lobo football pitch from 9.30am until 11.30am, with the rest of the day free for them to enjoy the delights of the Algarve, or to be present at other events staged by the FA.

A special VIP lounge has also been made available for the visitors, with a specially equipped children’s play area, games room, TV, pool table and private reception. Alda said that this was created “so that the players had somewhere safe, private and relaxing to go during the week”. The Vale do Lobo resort management also laid on a number of private evening events for the players and their families, and with the unlimited use of the resort’s beach, sports, health, fitness and leisure facilities, the squad, and their families, were able to adhere to Eriksson’s words, and relax Algarve style.

As David and Victoria will be hosting a fabulous World Cup Ball on May 21 in the UK, as a send-off for the players before they go to Germany, The Resident asked Alda if one of the most famous footballers wives, Victoria Beckham, would be accompanying her husband, England’s captain. Alda wouldn’t give a definite answer, “all I can say, is that David is part of the squad, and many members have brought their wives, children and family members with them”. However, one partner that was missing from Luton airport was 17-year-old Melanie Slade. Melanie has been thrust into the limelight ever since Eriksson picked her boyfriend, Theo Walcott, also 17, for the squad. Melanie is currently cramming for her AS levels, but she plans to join Walcott for two days in Portugal before heading back home to study.

Once Sven hands the England coaching reigns onto Steve McClaren after the World Cup, it will be interesting to see if the FA will seek to use the planned sports and leisure resort in Lagos being financed by Eriksson, for future training camps. If it is Beckhams’ hands around the trophy on July 9, then the England squad will probably be frequent visitors, but if things do not go as planned, perhaps McClaren and the FA will not be requesting the guided tour ….

Look out for interviews and more pictures of the squad in The Resident next week.