Alan Pattullo's Euro 2020 Scotland diary: Day Two in Darlington - spygate fears quashed and ... anyone for cricket?

Visitors to Scotland’s Euro 2020 training base at Rockliffe Park, outside Hurworth in County Durham, were intrigued to see vast sheets of tarpaulin around the primary training pitch used by manager Steve Clarke and his players.

What was the need for these screens anyway? Have the Czech Republic FA been recruiting golfers, who are still allowed to use the adjacent golf course while Scotland go about their training business, to send back sensitive information? Or maybe patriotic locals were sneaking a peek with the intention of furnishing England manager Gareth Southgate with intelligence. Regulation mask use is basically a charter for spying.

Turns out the screens are a Uefa requirement and the reason workers were hard at work yesterday was because the high winds had threatened to rip the tarpaulin sheets from their moorings. All was being returned to full-on secrecy mode yesterday, we are glad to report.

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The Scotland staff are said to be looking for a social activity to occupy the players this weekend to prevent boredom setting in early. Our local expert has pointed us in the direction of Club Bongo in Middlesbrough, the city’s first reggae club. It has since been described as being “as much part of the town as the Transporter Bridge and chicken parmo”, which is a local delicacy apparently involving breaded chicken, bechamel sauce and cheese. As for the nightclub, I can …Bongo, anyone?

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Another option is cricket. England players Harry Kane and Declan Rice wandered across to watch the action when the England squad were based here last week. The local media excitedly reported that famous faces were included among the smattering of spectators taking in Rockliffe Park Cricket Club 1st XI’s clash against Hartlepool in a NYSD Division 2 game. Nothing quite so stellar is scheduled for this afternoon sadly – just Rockliffe Park’s 2nd XI taking on Shildon Railway. Still, the sound of leather on willow could be just the ticket to soothe nerves ahead of next week…

Chris Sutton has already got Scotland’s Celtic contingent, including Callum McGregor and James Forrest, in the mood with his quip about Ange Postecoglou taking the Celtic post at this current time being the equivalent of batting against Aussie legends Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee “without pads, helmet, gloves and a box”…

Steve Clarke: no spying (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Steve Clarke: no spying (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

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