Training camp conditions key ahead of the Euros
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It might not seem obvious, but selecting the right training base ahead of a major tournament could be crucial in determining success.
After all, many top players are used to state-of-the-art facilities at their clubs and will not settle for anything less.
Who of course could forget Roy Keane’s tirade in Saipan prior to the 2002 World Cup – the Irish captain’s displeasure at the training facilities was one of the reasons why he walked out on his country and manager Mick McCarthy.
Training camps can also be a hotbed of sordid tabloid speculation and ructions can be reported upon.
South Africa 2010 was a striking example – Fabio Capello voiced his displeasure at the presence of journalists in their Rustenburg camp while France’s campaign was a mess from start to finish with Nicolas Anelka being sent home by boss Raymond Domenech following a bitter row.
Base camp selection is very important and the unique schedule of the Euros this time around – held across the continent rather than in one country or two neighbouring nations – means it is more vital than ever to pick the right base.
As expected, England will be based at the custom-built St George’s Park in Burton – a complex designed for occasions such as these.
The National Football Centre was opened up in 2012 and is the base for all coaching development work undertaken by the FA, so the quality of the camp is under no question as England prepare to play all three of their group games at Wembley.
Warm-up matches against Austria and Romania at Wembley will give an extra boost to their preparations.
Oddly, Scotland will be based south of the border in Middlesbrough – as the Czech Republic, who will also be in Group D, have booked their usual Oriam base.
Steve Clarke isn’t unhappy though, saying: “The most important aspect for me is that we give the players the best possible conditions to perform at Euro 2020: that includes the best possible training facilities available and making sure that travel plans are as efficient as they can be for the matches.”
Wales drew the short straw when they were picked to play in Group A and have had to act accordingly.
Two of their three group games will be played in Baku, meaning their base will sensibly be in Azerbaijan.
Long-haul flights will be on the cards however – their third and final group game against Italy will be played in Rome – hardly ideal considering it might turn out to be a must-win scenario.
What about the rest? Tournament favourites France will be based at the Clairefontaine national academy, a world-renowned venue that has helped produce the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Thierry Henry.
Recent tournament winners Germany and Spain will be based in their homelands and both have the advantage of playing all their group matches at home, thus avoiding a debilitating amount of travelling.
Belgium, who are expected to shine this summer, will also be based at home but playing two group matches in St Petersburg is far from ideal.
Undoubtedly, stories will emerge from these training bases across the tournament and keeping the camp a happy and harmonious one remains one of international football’s biggest challenges.