Head Coach reveals why he took his players to see the Normandy Beaches.
UEFA European U19 Championships
18-30 July 2010
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By Nicholas Veevers in Caen
As England prepare to take on France, the squad used their rest day on Thursday to take a trip to the beach at Arromanche, scene of some of the D-Day landings at the start of the Second World War.
The full squad and staff here made the trip there from their base in Caen to pay their respects to the brave soldiers who fought for their country all those years ago and are still remembered to this day and no doubt forever more.
Firstly, the group stopped at the cliff-top above Arromanches, where many of the German artillery were placed as the troops first landed at the Beaches and where there now stands a memorial to the Royal Engineers, amongst others.
It was then down to the beach itself and with remnants of the old harbour still visible, it was a moving experience for everyone as they could imagine just what went on here 65 years ago in what is now a peaceful and pleasant French town.
With the players visibly moved by what they had seen, Head Coach Noel Blake explained afterwards just how important he felt it was for the full party to come and pay their respects to what was such an important part of the nation’s history.
“We had a ‘down day’ on Thursday, on which we always try to do something with the lads no matter where we are,” he revealed.
“Obviously, there is a lot of history there and a lot of poignancy from our point of view. What happened there is part of the reason why we can walk around in a free society in our own land in particular.
“People made a sacrifice with their lives there and it’s important that we realise and remember that.
“It was very moving for me personally. It reminded me of some of my friends that I went to school with who were in the Armed Forces and are sadly not with us anymore.
“So that was a personal moment from my point of view, being able to see some of the memorials and it brought back memories of friends.
“Also with the history of the place, we’ve all heard about it and read about it, so to see it first hand is quite something to behold.”
Blake also believes it was a humbling experience for all of his players, as they were able to take their minds off preparations for their final group game here against France on Saturday for a few hours.
“From talking to some of the players since, they found it very touching and moving,” revealed Blake.
“We showed them the opening clips from the Saving Private Ryan film before we left and the room was in silence, which is very unusual for young lads and it was very good for them to get that feeling and understanding of the multitude of loss that the country suffered at that time.
“It brought it home to them that at the same age as they are and younger, people were out there fighting for their country.
“Sport has no real bearing on these sort of things. It was a War and unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives in this part of the world. It’s always going to be there and it’s part of our history, which is why we wanted the lads to come and see it and know why they can play football in different parts of the world without things happening to them
“For me, it was important to see a place like this which is so important in our history. Some of the lads will have known more about it than others before, but I think by bringing them all here, we’ve opened their eyes to what went on just that little bit more.
“It was moving for all of us, and was something that I felt we needed to do, as England representatives, in this part of the world.”