England manager Gareth Southgate says that giving his players privacy and the chance to relax with their families has been uppermost in his mind when choosing the team’s hotel base for Russia at next summer’s World Cup finals.
Southgate has made a number of trips to Russia to scout potential base camps, and is expected to choose the village of Repino, 19 miles north of St Petersburg in the Gulf of Finland, for his team’s base with the 107-room ForRestMix club there booked exclusively for the Football Association’s use. In Brazil four years ago, England did not have sole use of the Royal Tulip hotel outside Rio de Janeiro and suffered long traffic delays reaching their training ground in the city at Urca.
Southgate has chosen a small town near to a big city, as Roy Hodgson did at Euro 2016 with the base of Chantilly outside Paris. The England manager would not confirm Repino as his final choice but outlined what he saw as crucial. “The most important thing for me is that we have a base which is exclusively ours,” he said. “It gives the players a chance to relax, it’s important, I want their families to be able to come in at the right moments.
“Base camps don’t win tournaments. Environment can play a part, but tactical, technical ability on the field will win it. So the base camp can be used as an excuse for any number of different things. I think we will create a base camp that the players enjoy being at. With an atmosphere they will enjoy being a part of, they are going to have a fantastic life experience. I think a World Cup in Russia, from what I saw in the Confederations Cup, will be a really good tournament.”
As for England’s prospects at the tournament, Southgate did not offer the manager’s traditional opinion that the team were capable of winning the World Cup. He said: “The reality is we are underdogs at the moment, aren’t we? I think the reality is that's where we are. We placed Iceland in the last Euros and we were favourites and we have to learn how to deal with being favourites. If we are playing a team who we think have better players then we have to set up in a way to beat them. We have got to be able to deal with everything.”
Asked about whether Jack Wilshere would be considered for next month’s friendlies against Germany and Brazil if he gets back into the Arsenal team, Southgate did not rule it out. “Well, we're in a position where there's no way we would dismiss any creative player but of course people have to be playing and of course have to be playing at a good level.”