TheFA.com's Insider blogs on the first few days in France.
We’ve been here in Caen since Thursday evening and after nearly a week of preparation from the staff and training for the players, everyone is ready for the opening game with Austria on Sunday evening.
Friday and Saturday were typically hectic for the staff, with plans continuing to be put together to ensure the squad are in the best condition possible for their matches as well as official meetings with UEFA for everyone involved, including Saturday’s pre-competition press conference with all four coaches at the Abbaye aux Dames, an impressive Norman Romanesque building which now houses the Lower Normandy Regional Council offices. Head Coach Noel Blake also took time out to speak over the phone to both FiveLive's Sportsweek and TalkSport in the build-up to the tournament following on from last week's media activity in Warwick.
One particularly interesting appointment was on Friday, when the England squad had their pre-tournament meeting with a UEFA representative of the referees and officials. Presented by Michel Vautrot, a former French referee who took charge of the 1988 European Championship Final and now a UEFA referee observer, he spoke with the squad regarding the various situations that might arise in a game and the policies and thoughts from the referee’s perspective to encourage fair play and respect throughout.
The FA’s Director Of Football Development Sir Trevor Brooking then arrived here on Saturday evening and he will be at all three group games, whilst Under-21 Head Coach and Senior Coach Stuart Pearce and his assistant Steve Wigley will be arriving just prior to the game on Sunday so the players know the right people are watching if they want to make an impression.
However, with all of the build-up to the start of the Finals since meeting up last Monday, the players are just itching to get out there now and let their feet do the talking so whilst they took a pre-match rest early on Sunday afternoon, I went out to find out a little more about the town in which we are based.
The main ville in Normandy, Caen is a place steeped in history and you can’t fail to recognise that as soon as you arrive with the imposing Caen Castle overlooking the area.
Built by William the Conqueror around 1060, Caen Castle is one of the largest fortified enclosures in Europe and has previously served as a Princely residence, a military barracks and a fortress in its time but today is something of a cultural crossroads in the heart of Normandy with free entry to all and museums and art gallery.
Aside from the castle, there are numerous ancient churches dotted around the town including the impressive Saint-Pierre which sits just outside the walls of the Castle and a goal kick's distance (with a Jubulani, perhaps!) away from the team hotel.
Built somewhere between the 13th and 16th century, its tower stands at almost 80 metres and the church exhibits a transition of styles between Gothic and Renaissance. Currently being restored, it is quite a captivating site alongside a busy shopping street.
The hotel in which all four teams from Group A are based is right alongside the Bassin Saint-Pierre marina and whilst it’s been a relatively quiet part of town so far, everyone awoke on Sunday morning to find a sprawling and bustling market stretching the length of the marina to the start of the pedestrianised centre half a mile or so away. You could pretty much buy anything there, ranging from fresh, warm baguettes, sunglasses, Algerian cous-cous, clothes or flowers and I even spotted a few more of the staff themselves having a little stroll around there earlier.
Kick-off is now drawing closer and closer though and whilst it’s great to have such pleasant surroundings, that will all pale into insignificance when England and Austria take to the field in Flers. Remember, the game is live on British Eurosport, kicking off at 5pm BST, so try and catch the game if you can.
Any comments or questions, don’t hesitate to leave them below.