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England play it perfectly in Krakow

Published: Friday 8 June 2012, 23.10CET
Team reporter Andy James finds that England have proved a swift hit in the city of Krakow, with everyone from the mayor to local schoolchildren enjoying their stay.
by Andy James
from Krakow
Published: Friday 8 June 2012, 23.10CET

England play it perfectly in Krakow

Team reporter Andy James finds that England have proved a swift hit in the city of Krakow, with everyone from the mayor to local schoolchildren enjoying their stay.

The England team may have only been in Poland for a couple of days but already they've won a great deal of friends among both the media and public.

Immediately upon their arrival at Krakow Airport, the players set the tone by greeting the schoolchildren who had come to welcome them, and ever since their stay has proven a resounding success.

On Thursday, the squad were honoured with a civic reception at the Sukiennice, the magnificent former trade centre in Krakow's historic hub, where mayor of the city Jacek Majchrowski extended his personal welcome before expressing his hopes "for an England-Poland final".

While the various speeches may not exactly have been the players' idea of a good time, their conduct afterwards was a masterclass. Rather than scurry off into blacked-out cars through a back door, the players mingled with the many dignitaries, VIPs and selected media in attendance.

©Getty Images

Wayne Rooney remains a big draw

Nor did they require the cavalcade typically associated with the England team for their journey back to the hotel. Instead, the players strolled the short distance themselves, giving the delighted locals a chance to see the likes of Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney up close and out in the open.

Admittedly, the human tunnel created by the hundreds of eager-eyed spectators and the stern-faced security guards surrounding them made it a somewhat surreal sight, but it was yet another example of how England have opened themselves up to the public.

The trend continued today with a fully open training session at Hutnik Stadium. Around 3,500 fans turned out to witness the players emerge from the tunnel each holding the hand of a lucky local youngster. Several key performers, including Joe Hart, John Terry and Scott Parker left proceedings after the warm-up, but the remaining players still put on a good show. Rooney, as ever the main draw, even attempted an overhead similar to the one he scored against Manchester City FC. He misconnected, but the crowd appreciated his efforts warmly.

As the two main prizes for the autograph-hunting kids, Rooney and Gerrard were the last ones into the dressing room, determined not to let anyone go home disappointed. The players clearly understand the benefits of getting the public on their side. Ultimately, it could be their support which propels them into the latter stages of the tournament.

Last updated: 26/06/12 4.14CET

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