England’s departure for the World Cup was hit by a moment of farce on Sunday when comedian Simon Brodkin gatecrashed the travelling party as they arrived at Luton Airport.
Brodkin – best known for his performance as Lee Nelson in two BBC comedy series – was pictured attempting to mingle with England’s players and staff as they waited for their luggage to be removed from the coach which had delivered them to a private terminal at the Bedfordshire airport.
Dressed in an identical suit to those worn by the England travelling party and brandishing a passport, Brodkin spent several moments in close proximity to the players before he appeared to be spotted first by captain Steven Gerrard, after which members of security and local police intervened.
Brodkin was spoken to by a police officer before leaving the area.
A Bedfordshire Police spokesman said: “Officers were assisting private security at Landmark Aviation when a man managed to enter the area and approached the England team bus. This man was quickly apprehended, taken away from the scene and given some strong police advice about his future conduct.”
A BBC spokeswoman said the prank was not for a BBC project.
It is not the first time Brodkin has attempted such a stunt. In April 2013, he was given a six-month conditional caution after warming up with the Manchester City team ahead of a match against Everton at Goodison Park the previous month.
He was charged with going on to the playing area, contrary to the Football Offences Act.
Brodkin’s antics aside, it was a low-key send-off for the England team as they jetted off to Miami for the next stage of their preparations ahead of the World Cup in Brazil.
The squad is due to arrive in the US in the early hours of Monday morning UK time. Their first training session on US soil is slated for Tuesday with their next warm-up match against Ecuador at Sun Life Stadium on Wednesday.
England, fresh from a 3-0 win over Peru at Wembley on Friday night, play a final-warm-up against Honduras on Saturday, before their first group match against Italy in Manaus on 14 June. Roy Hodgson’s 23-man squad, plus standby players John Stones and John Flanagan, boarded the flight shortly before 2pm, although they were all back out again a short time later as they posed for photographs on the steps of the plane along with the manager.
Speaking before boarding the flight, Hodgson said: “It’s going to be a great adventure I think. We’re all very excited about it and we got the perfect send-off on Friday night.
“The crowd was quite magnificent and I think we’re profiting from a very positive mood.
“We feel positive, we’ll do what we can. There’s certainly no trepidation - obviously excitement, but we’re aware of our responsibilities, we’re carrying a lot of hopes and dreams with us.”