In a pre-Roses boot camp, LUMFC made the southward journey to Burton, destination St George’s Park (SGP), home to the education centre of England’s national football teams. Excited to get stuck into the once in a lifetime opportunity which had been eagerly anticipated since Christmas, the squad were not to be disappointed.
Upon arrival, the Red Roses were taken to their private conference room which would act as a base for the duration of their stay. The three-day agenda and ambitions for the visit were examined before the team received a tour of the state of the art facilities available to pros on England international duty, led by LUMFC’s very own coach and FA affiliated, Chris Bramall. Among thirteen of the outdoor pitches was the recently named Sir Bobby Charlton pitch; a replica of the dimensions and hybrid grass and artificial surface seen at Wembley stadium. LUMFC were also shown the indoor 3G, location for both the 1s and 2s friendlies against their opponents, teams from the Independent Schools Football Association (ISFA), which would take place the following day.
After the conclusion of the tour, it was time for the boys to lace up their boots for an afternoon training session, which, inspired by what they had just witnessed, was conducted with high intensity and enthusiasm. Evening came, and with it, a chance to enjoy the forms of downtime provided by the onsite 4 star Hilton Hotel: a gym, swimming pool, steam room, bar, and numerous TV screens. It was also time for the squad to take advantage of the meals that came as part of their all-inclusive trip, having a ‘light’ dinner ahead of their upcoming matches.
The second day began unexpectedly. During their morning meeting, LUMFC were treated to a surprise visit and short Q&A session from England assistant manager Steve Holland, there to support his son who would be playing against the 2s later that day. He noted the importance of physical attributes in becoming a professional footballer, but stressed a dedicated and determined mentality is vital in making the most of this ability. Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole, and John Terry were used as examples of players that applied their talent in this way most successfully. When discussing future England stars, Holland pointed out the names of Ryan Sessegnon, Phil Foden, and Mason Mount as bright prospects.
Then came the day’s two games, with the 1s facing off against ISFA U18s, and the 2s taking on the U17s. Unfortunately, the high-standard of both ISFA outfits proved a little too challenging, with each Lancaster team incurring a defeat. However, there were plenty of positives to take away from the afternoon’s action as both LUMFC sides put in confident and well-contested displays, with a superb volleyed goal from striker Joe Devaney being the highlight.
Following a review of the earlier matches came one of the more poignant moments of the trip. The club’s chairman, Carl Airey, unable to play at SGP or Roses after suffering a broken leg, was presented with a framed Roses shirt as a get-well gift, signed by all the team.
Saturday morning marked the end of Red Roses’ visit. The squad were debriefed and reminisced of the previous few days, made more memorable after watching Ross Barkley play in a Chelsea U23 game against Derby. An unbelievable experience, LUMFC realised how lucky they had been to be given an insight into the life of a professional footballer. Attention now turns to Roses, where their SGP adventure will hopefully prove invaluable in preparing LUMFC for a double win over their Yorkshire rivals.