Card games, a DJ, basketball hoop competitions, Love Island watchalongs, ‘around the world’ darts and a bit of ABBA – it is not always about football in England’s Euro 2022 camp.
Sarina Wiegman’s side are in the quarter-finals after winning their group with a game to spare – but they have plenty to occupy themselves when they switch off from football.
England have a base camp at the Lensbury Resort in Teddington, south-west London, where they eat, sleep, train and relax.
They have meeting rooms, recovery centers, training pitches, a games room, a Big Brother-style ‘Diary Room’ and media areas which are all available to use in between matches.
“After training we recover, have lunch, then enjoy each other’s company. We play cards, sit in the sun and get a coffee. The set-up here is great,” Manchester United forward Alessia Russo told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“There’s a group of us who play cards. It’s a nice way to switch off and we play a game called Trump, which gets really competitive. Tooney [Ella Toone] won the last game we played…”
Toone might have the crown in cards, but Manchester City winger Lauren Hemp is queen of the darts board.
“I’ve been practicing darts because ‘Hempo’ flies away with the win every time!” said team-mate Chloe Kelly.
“We’ve been playing ‘around the world’ and she’ll be finished while I’m still on 12. I have some work to do…”
The games room has been very competitive. Before press conferences, players are taking on members of the media in a basketball hoop challenge.
Ellen White was up first and gave her team a very strong lead. Afterwards, Fran Kirby told the media that White had been practicing and was the team’s strongest player.
Toone came along next time to give Kelly support – shouting instructions and words of encouragement as she drew with the media.
Away from competition though, the players have been sent messages of support from friends and family, with midfielder Jill Scott’s mum posting a poem on social media.
Staff are also encouraging players to use a space they refer to as the ‘Diary Room’, where they can offload on anything they want to talk about.
Chelsea defender Jess Carter is among those to use it, while Aston Villa goalkeeper Hannah Hampton has enjoyed taking walks in the local area – although the squad must remain wary of Covid.
“That’s something they’ve been really open about. They don’t want us stuck inside because we are away for a maximum of 10 weeks,” said Hampton.
“It’s been nice, we’ve been having little walks around to coffee shops, which has been really refreshing.”
Kelly added: “You see people in the street and they’re sending their support across the road. It’s lovely, really touching and it’s nice to see England fans.”
The team also love to party.
Captain Leah Williamson is the resident DJ, playing songs on the coach journey back from games, while defending Rachel Daly “gave a performance” in the changing room after the 8-0 win against Norway.
“It was that good I can’t remember what the song was! She [Daly] went all out,” said Russo.
“We had the speaker on the whole way home and Leah was playing some good songs. My request was ‘Listen’ by Beyonce.
“She has some really good throwback songs and we love a singalong. She’ll throw one on and everyone is like ‘ah, we haven’t heard this in years!'”
The celebrations after England’s victory over Norway were clearly enjoyable but midfielder Georgia Stanway missed the coach home with the players and had to make the journey with staff.
However, she was able to enjoy a bit of ABBA in the dressing room beforehand – something that has become a regular feature in post-match celebrations.
“I think that’s Tooney! She always has ABBA on request. I think she knows all of the words,” said Kelly.
The players naturally also crave time for relaxation and there is a large group who get together most nights to catch up on TV show ‘Love Island’.
They also watch other games at Euro 2022 – though Kelly admitted she likes an early night.
“I’ll watch the first-half but I am always knackered! Get me to bed and get me some sleep,” she added.
And has Stanway been able to keep up his hobby of fishing in London?
“She’s probably got a tent somewhere…” said Kelly.