Wayne Rooney banished the air of pessimism which has clouded England's European Championship preparations by declaring as the squad arrived here last night that they can win the tournament.
The question of actually lifting the Henri Delaunay Trophy is one that even manager Roy Hodgson has deflected, suggesting that it was his players who had told him it was a possibility. But though Rooney can only hope that the nation's hopes of progressing to the group stages are still alive when he returns from suspension to face Ukraine on 19 June, he clearly believes, as ever.
"I don't see why we can't win it," Rooney said. "We've certainly got the players and the quality. The new manager coming in has lifted the players and everybody. I think you go into a tournament hoping you can win it. That's the main thing. In the past two tournaments, they've ended in disappointment. Now is the time to put that right."
The 26-year-old revealed he had undertaken 15 to 20 minutes work with a goalkeeping coach after every training session this season, developing his finishing from inside the box. "That's helped me," he said. "Sometimes it's a little bit boring practicing finishing from six yards out, when you think 'I've got to score from here' but it is importance to practice. I've been working on my heading for the past few years and it's paying off."
The realities of a city centre hotel in Krakow were immediately made apparent to the players after their coach struggled to negotiate the last bend before reaching the Hotel Stary in the late afternoon. Hundreds awaited the squad, including a contingent of boisterous Irish fans and the deputy mayor Magdalena Sroka said that the Italian and Dutch squads – whose hotels are in outlying parts of Krakow – had simply got in earlier. "By booking early, the Italians and Dutch secured their first-choice hotels and training bases – unlike England," Ms Sroka said.
The local official said it would be noisier at night for England, whose hotel is adjacent to a sushi bar and near the main square of the city. "During the night, Krakow is a noisy city," Ms Sroka said. "For sure it's not a peaceful and quiet and empty city. This is a city full of energy and full of life." A bugle is played on the hour, every hour, from the nearby St. Mary's Church. "Of course we will play [it] during the whole Euro tournament as well as usual – it's through the night also – it is 24/7," Ms Sroka added.
The local English language newspaper Krakow Post gave a remarkable warning to England fans about the Polish police tactics. "Polish police are going to come down on troublemakers like a bag full of anvils and you don't want to be there when it happens. These lads' mums and and dads rioted under Soviet machine guns – a few chairs thrown by beered up fans is not going to intimidate them."