Warm welcome and state-of the-art training facilities - what England can expect from Middlesbrough games
The news that England will play two warm-up games against Austria and Romania at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium is a huge boost for the North East – and will show the benefit of taking the Three Lions out on the road again. National World’s head of football in the North East, Richard Mennear, explains what Gareth Southgate’s men can expect.
Middlesbrough's promotion hopes may have faltered in recent weeks but the club – and North East as a whole – was given a major shot in the arm off the field with news that England are heading to town.
Gareth Southgate's England will prepare for their attempt at European Championship glory right here in Teesside.
No doubt Southgate's strong Boro links – he is the club's former skipper and manager – will have helped on that front but it is a major coup for the club and the wider region.
And isn't it also nice to see England head out on the road again and move away from London for their training base and warm-up friendly games against Austria on June 2 and Romania on June 6.
Over the past five years, England have played in Manchester, Leeds, Leicester, Southampton and at Sunderland's Stadium of Light too but games are usually held at Wembley.
There are obvious economic issues at play that mean Wembley is the first choice for the majority of the Three Lions’ games – along with FA Cup semi-finals, play-off finals and more. The Football Association has been hit as hard as most by the pandemic, with chairman Greg Clarke admitting in June that they have a £300 million potential hole to fill over the next four years and 124 redundancies announced, with revenues suffering over the last year.
But with the national stadium handed over to UEFA at the start of June ahead of the tournament, Southgate's side needed to find a temporary base.
And they can expect a very warm welcome here in the North East and take full advantage of the superb state-of-the-art training facilities and accommodation at Rockliffe Hall, Boro's training base.
The North East may be under represented when it comes to players in Southgate’s plans this summer, with only former Sunderland lads Jordan Pickford and Jordan Henderson likely to be in the 23-man squad, but that won’t stop the region getting right behind the team.
The past 12 months have been tough going for everyone with the ongoing pandemic and there is hope that some fans will be allowed to watch the games.
We'll have to wait and see on that front. But one thing is for sure, the whole nation will be backing and hoping to see England win the tournament this summer and it would be a nice feeling to know their successful campaign started here in the North East.