England cuts family time at Euro 2024 with hopes of regaining competitive edge


England’s players are prepared to cut back on the time they spend with their families in a bid to boost the team’s chances of winning Euro 2024.

Head coach Gareth Southgate designated a “family day” after every game England plays in Group C, a time when the squad has no official commitments and their loved ones can visit the complex where they are based.

However, ahead of Tuesday’s crucial clash with Slovenia in Cologne, which England must win to guarantee finishing in first place, captain Harry Kane insisted a rethink was appropriate.

“The day after the game was just a small debrief that we always do from the (coach), and then it was just a family day,” Kane told reporters. “We had seven hours with the family, which I’m not sure all the lads were happy about after a few hours.

“It was pretty hectic to be fair, so we might cut that down in the future.”

Fatigue and its effects have been part of an ongoing theme after England looked lethargic and disorganized in its opening games, a 1-0 victory over Serbia and a 1-1 draw with Denmark.

All of its key players either play in the English Premier League, with its frenetic pace, or, like Jude Bellingham with Real Madrid and Kane with Bayern Munich, overseas teams that went on deep Champions League runs.

Assuming England safely advances, it is unlikely that family trips will be scrapped, but may be shortened to allow for extra recuperation time before the players return to training the following day.

“It was an important day just to switch the minds off,” Kane added. “We have done well in the tournament so far, four points after two games, but in this sort of environment you need time to switch and that’s what that day was for.”

The level of scrutiny the England team is always under prompted Southgate and staff at the English Football Association to sequester the squad at the Golfresort Weimarer Land complex in the tiny village of Blankenhain.

From there they travel to each game as opposed to staying in or near any of the 10 host cities dotted around Germany. For example, the first game against Serbia required a flight to and from Gelsenkirchen. For the Denmark game in Frankfurt a long ride on a luxury bus was required. The Slovenia matchup will need another flight.

Southgate knows the importance of family involvement in ensuring that players do not feel isolated during major tournaments, and doesn’t underestimated the value of getting the balance right.

Part of the reason for such attention to detail is that there have been issues with England in the past. At the 2006 World Cup, also in Germany. The England “WAGs” (wives and girlfriends) attracted as much attention as the players when they stayed in a plush hotel near the team’s training base in Baden-Baden.

With David Beckham’s wife Victoria and Ashley Cole’s partner Cheryl Tweedy also a well-known pop star, the champagne-fueled partying antics of the WAGs provided irresistible fodder for a huge crew of paparazzi.

Fabio Capello, the coach who came in for the following World Cup campaign took a much more hardline, restrictive approach. Southgate has found a happy middle ground. 

Firm but fair, his popularity among the players – even though his tactics are currently creating a firestorm of criticism back home – is partly due to the way in which he prioritizes their off-field wellbeing.

Earlier in the tournament, forward Ollie Watkins revealed that when he and the other players arrived at the Blankenhain compound, team staff has arranged for a care package to be left on their bed.

“It was messages from all my best friends, my brothers, my mum, Mrs. and kids,” Watkins said. “A little letter to say how well you’ve done. It reminds you — and I got a bit emotional.”

If England clinches first place in its group, it would play a third-place finisher, yet to be determined, in the round of 16. Any mishap could be costly, as Group C’s second-place team faces host nation Germany in the next phase.

For the Slovenia game, multiple reports suggest Trent Alexander-Arnold will be dropped after starting the first two games in central midfield, with Conor Gallagher due to come in to replace him.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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