Compared to events in the Spanish camp, the atmosphere at England’s headquarters was a picture of tranquillity on Wednesday.
With Marcus Rashford absent from the first training session but apparently not a concern for Monday’s opening World Cup encounter with Tunisia, the one England player made available to the written press was asked how he was sleeping when it never really gets dark here at this time of year.
‘We’ve got blinds and curtains to deal with that,’ said Ashley Young dismissively, suggesting that the FA really have thought of everything.
Gareth Southgate and Harry Kane lead the England team to their training pitch in Russia
England clearly have learned from the lessons of the past. In Chantilly two years ago, assistant coach Gary Neville was said to have complained that the pillows were too fluffy in their five-star hotel and one player was unhappy with the lack of joss sticks.
Gareth Southgate seems to have happier campers at this World Cup. Players checked into their rooms on Tuesday night to discover photographs of their loved ones already hanging on the walls.
The more cynical out there might not be surprised to hear that wives and partners secretly conspired with the FA to make it happen but it was a nice touch all the same.
Of more relevance to performance, and straight out of the Team Sky manual, were the special mattresses provided for each player. Of less relevance was a screening of the latest Love Island episode, with Jamie Vardy quick to stress that it was of zero interest to him.
There might not be much to do in this sleepy seaside town but the FA have provided all kinds of entertainment to help pass the time between matches, even in the media centre where their press conferences are being held.
The captain and the manager were presented with gifts ahead of their first training session
Kane took the time to sign autographs for the 400 local school children invited to watch
Jamie Vardy speaks to the local media as England settle into life at their World Cup base
ENGLAND WORLD CUP GROUP G FIXTURES
June 18, 7pm vs Tunisia, Volgograd Arena
June 24, 1pm vs Panama, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium
June 28, 7pm vs Belgium, Kaliningrad Stadium
Housed in a nearby hotel, the facilities include a four-lane bowling alley, air hockey, the latest FIFA video game and a pool table. In the team hotel there is a driving simulator and a basketball hoop.
At the training ground which is normally home to the local amateur team, Spartak Zelenogorsk, every effort was made to ignore the recent diplomatic tension between Russia and Britain and put on a united front. Southgate and his players signed autographs for a 400-strong audience of local dignitaries, other guests and their children.
Southgate and Harry Kane also received gifts in the form of a fancy loaf of bread and an even fancier teapot that might be the closest England get to a trophy in the next few weeks.
Among the guests was Lindsay Skoll, the minister and deputy head of the British Embassy in Moscow who is here as part of a 12-strong team for the duration of the World Cup following the expulsion of 23 British diplomats from Moscow back in March.
Skoll now has responsibility not only for Southgate and his 23 players but for England’s travelling fans. ‘In terms of eliminating extra risks we’ve done everything we can,’ she said.
In Repino, it all feels pretty safe. The police presence, complete with marksmen watching over England from surrounding rooftops, is considerable and probably a bit unnecessary given how quiet it is.
The England stars signs autographs for the school children following the training session
But it makes for a relaxing setting for Southgate and his squad as they prepare for the tournament. As Young said: ‘The FA have done a magnificent job for us so everyone feels at home’.
The focus, said Young, is to get off to a winning start. England have not been too good at that over the years, winning only five of the 14 opening games they have so far contested at a World Cup.
‘It is always important to make a good start to a tournament,’ he said. ‘You talk about our results historically but we are here, we are looking to do well in training and do well in that first match. I think you can see from the last two games (against Nigeria and Costa Rica) that we have started brightly and have been on the front foot.
‘We will work on it this week and I am sure we will get off to a good start.’
Vardy said the players are confident, comparing the mood to that which existed in the title-winning Leicester City dressing room.
‘We have all got that mentality where you just want to win. We want to make sure we are here as winners.
Vardy, speaking with Southgate, compared the mood to that of Leicester’s title-winning squad
‘It feels very similar to Leicester, I am not going to lie. We were exactly the same, very close, always wanting to do things together and having a laugh and a joke at training.
‘But then once we stepped over the white line it was a different story.’
And the hotel?
‘Very nice,’ he said. ‘I was watching Sky Sports yesterday and a reporter was whispering because we were having down time. I don’t think we could have heard him anyway.’
Author: Nancy Parker
Nancy Parker is a five time Emmy Award winning journalist and seven time Emmy nominee who has spent almost twenty five years covering news in South Louisiana. She has anchored every prime time newscast at WVUE FOX8 during her twenty year tenure in New Orleans.