Why is it always like Fawlty Towers when England check in?

Dead dogs, broken bidets and baked beans: the FA has used a colourful collection of tournament hotels. Tim Rich takes a tour

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Should the manager of Krakow's Hotel Stary feel too pleased by the wave of publicity generated by it being chosen for England's base in Euro 2012, he might wonder what happened to some of the others who welcomed the Three Lions into their en suite rooms. In the space of a month, the Royal Bafokeng in Rustenburg changed from "the best base camp ever" (a description by Fabio Capello) to a mind-numbing, luxury prison miles from anywhere. Some of the FA's other bookings have been, well, Fawlty.

1950 World Cup: Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro

The journey was bad – a 31-hour flight from London, with five stops – and arriving was worse. Acting on advice from Arsenal, England booked a hotel on the beach front, which proved so attractive to his players that Walter Winterbottom declared it off limits after 10am. "The kitchens were dreadful," the England manager recalled. "The smell would get into the bedrooms, there were other guests and the food was swimming in oil." The authorities had removed trees around the hotel but not filled in the holes, allowing Stan Mortensen to fall into one and twist his ankle while out jogging. For the encounter with the United States (an unthinkable 1-0 defeat), England moved to Belo Horizonte. The 15-mile journey to training saw the team bus career round hairpin bends with the team clutching handkerchiefs to their mouths to keep out the dust. Gil Merrick, England's keeper, said his principal memory of the hotel was the FA asking them to leave because it was too expensive.

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1970 World Cup: The Guadalajara Hilton

The worst organised, most disastrous journey of the lot that ended up with the world champions having to check into a motel before their quarter-final with West Germany in Leon because nobody at the FA had thought to book ahead. Worse, the Germans' wives and girlfriends were already there. By this stage, Sir Alf Ramsey had offended just about everyone in Mexico, insisting that fresh fruit (one of the country's principal exports) be flown out from England. Their first base in Mexico, the Parc des Princes, was a good, if unfinished, hotel but when England moved north-west to Guadalajara, they found themselves in the city centre, kept awake by what Francis Lee recalled were: "Crowds of 4,000 banging on the wrecks of old cars." Ramsey allowed the players to sunbathe "for 15 minutes on your front and 15 minutes on your back" and had his trainer, Harold Shepherdson, enforce it with a stopwatch, galvanising the poolside with shouts of: "Turn over."

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1982 World Cup: Los Tamarises, Bilbao

This time, the FA was determined to get it right even to the extent of manager Ron Greenwood testing the mattresses himself before confirming the booking. The hotel was secluded and by a cliff face to deter Basque terrorists and photographers. Unfortunately, the first photograph sent back when the contract was announced was of a dead dog on the rubbish-strewn beach opposite the hotel. There were views but only to a refinery. Despite all this, Los Tamarises was probably the most successful base England have employed. It was the first to have a games room and the owner gave each player a bottle of wine from the year of their birth. More importantly for the FA, nothing leaked. Kevin Keegan, stricken with back spasms, borrowed the receptionist's Seat 500 to drive 200 miles to Madrid airport to fly to Hamburg for treatment without any journalist finding out. Eight years later they were not so lucky.

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1986 World Cup: El Camino Real, Monterrey

The Camino Real is a big red tower in the mountains above Monterrey. It was from one of its balconies that Bobby Robson was photographed head in hands, staring blankly down to the swimming pool below, apparently contemplating suicide. He was actually listening to Whitney Houston on a Walkman but it didn't stop the "Fool on the Hill" headlines. The problems started when the FA allowed the players to choose where they wanted to stay in Mexico City. Footballers do not, as a rule, do research and they selected the Valle de Mexico because it was the nearest to the training ground. It was also on an industrial estate, it was also choked by traffic. It also possessed no flushing lavatories, nor much in the way of hot water. The Holiday Inn nearby must have seemed like the Waldorf Astoria and very soon Robson was checking his team in. And with Argentina to come they would soon be checking out again.

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1990 World Cup: Is Molas, Sardinia

Until England checked in, the Is Molas was best known as a venue for golf's Italian Open. Then it became notorious for a three-in-a-bed romp with an entirely innocent hotel employee called Isabella Ciaravolo, who claimed she could not possibly have gone to bed with any member of the England squad because they were so ugly. The story is now regarded as grotesque fabrication but it stemmed from the FA's error in not booking up the whole hotel to keep it free of the press, some members of whom were determined to humiliate Bobby Robson. It meant that Bryan Robson's attempt to quietly meet up with a faith healer, Olga Stringfellow, to cure a persistent Achilles problem was on the front page of The Sun before she made it to reception. Any good work Ms Stringfellow achieved was wiped out by Paul Gascoigne breaking a bidet which fell on Robson's foot during a "social event" in his room.

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2000 Euros: Balmoral Hotel, Spa

A decade on and the lessons of the Is Molas had been learnt. England booked the entire hotel and, with the ludicrous optimism Kevin Keegan was famous for, they booked it for the entire tournament. It earned the Balmoral £250,000; more than any other country paid for its accommodation. The players, whose tastes had moved on since they put their hands up for the Valle de Mexico, were unimpressed. "A drab, old hotel" is how Gary Neville remembers it and, when checking in, he thought "it's going to be a long few weeks". Fortunately, England's ineptitude, particularly against Romania, who were staying in a three-star hotel for a third of what England paid, ensured that he would be swiftly checking out. It was the venue for expensive, stultifying boredom, epitomised by the card games that droned on into the night and the conference room where Keegan invited Les Reed, one of his coaches, to give a talk on tactics and promptly fell asleep.

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2006 World Cup: Brenners Park, Baden-Baden

The players were 12 miles up the road in the Schloss Bühlerhöhe, where Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton had once stayed and which was now preparing to welcome Theo Walcott with a request for extra baked beans. The wives, girlfriends and families stayed in the Brenners Park along with journalists, some of whom they were prepared to argue with long into the night. There were also an unfeasible number of Carraghers to a room and a modest Italian restaurant, the Trattoria Garibaldi, eclipsed the Bühlerhöhe as the focus of England's doomed, arthritic campaign. The WAGs' venue of choice was besieged as a symbol of everything decadent about football. They actually drank far less champagne than was claimed and probably the most distasteful thing that happened was Gary Neville's dad jumping on the tables to belt out an impromptu version of "God Save the Queen" to celebrate England's victory over Trinidad & Tobago.

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