ASHLEY YOUNG says England’s World Cup odyssey is like one big holiday for Gareth Southgate’s happy campers.
And if the Three Lions reach the final he says it will be the best one he will ever have had.
Birthday boy Young – who was 33 yesterday – reflected the positive mood ahead of the semi-final against Croatia in Moscow tomorrow.
As England prepared for their biggest game for 28 years in the tranquillity of their Repino spa resort, the Manchester United wing-back said: “It’s felt like a good holiday we’ve been on – and if we get to the final it will be the best I’ve ever had.
“If you said to any player they were going to be together for seven weeks, there was a lot of talk of being bored, But it has not felt like that at all.
“We’re enjoying every moment of it. There’s no boredom at all. It’s not just the players but the staff behind the scenes making the hotel feel like you are at home, putting pictures of your family in the rooms and making sure there are things to do.
“Everyone gets on well and if you’ve got that off the pitch you can take that onto the pitch. Fans, staff, players, everyone can see how well we stick together.”
But although the players are relaxed and happy, Young says they are totally focussed on seizing England’s best chance for half a century to emulate the 1966 World Cup-winning heroes.
“It’s been a fantastic journey we’ve been on and now we’re looking to complete the journey in the right way and hopefully win the World Cup.
“I think we’ve got a great chance. I said before the tournament that we were not coming out to Russia NOT to win the World Cup. We are in a great position to go on and win it.
“The players and staff have said we want to create our own stories. It’s 28 years since England got to a semi-final but I don’t think there is anyone in the squad who wasn’t confident we could get to where we are or even further.
“It was other people who said we were not going to get there. But for us in the squad, and the staff, we’ve got that belief, team spirit and confidence to go as far as we want.”
Eric Dier emphasised the buoyant mood in the squad by revealing they are singing their way to victory in Russia – to a tape put together by Southgate and his coaching staff.
The Tottenham midfielder said: “They like a lot of what I call ‘karaoke tunes’ really, ones you can sing along to, old school 80s, 90s.
“There are some good ones in there, the players enjoy listening to them too, they’ve had a few sing-a-longs on the way back from games and hopefully that will continue on Wednesday.”
But Dier appealed to Southgate to pump up the volume for those on the back of the bus.
“They don’t put the volume up very loud, they try to keep the volume enough so that only they can hear it, “ he added. “I don’t know if they’re embarrassed about their music or the speakers are bad but it’s quite hard to hear it at the back of the bus.”
There was more good news for England with midfielder Jordan Henderson being declared fit to face Croatia after coming off with a tight hamstring towards the end of the quarter-final win over Sweden.