Harry Kane's men are surprisingly motivated by Morecambe and Wise

Bring us sunshine! As they play tonight for a place in the World Cup quarter-finals, it’s revealed that Harry Kane’s men are surprisingly motivated by comedy legends Morecambe and Wise

  • England have secret backers as they go into tonight – Morecambe and Wise  
  • Southgate, a fan of Eric and Ernie, follows their philosophy: it’s all about timing 
  • Sports psychologist Caulfield said they discuss the late comedy duo’s success

England have secret backers as they go into battle against Senegal for a place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup tonight – comedy legends Morecambe and Wise.

Manager Gareth Southgate is a big fan of Eric and Ernie, and believes their philosophy for great comedy applies to the best coaching too: it’s all about timing.

Sports psychologist Michael Caulfield, a long-time friend and confidante of the England manager, said that they often discuss the secrets of the late comedy duo’s success on the big stage.

Southgate first employed Mr Caulfield when he was manager at Middlesbrough in 2006.

England have secret backers as they go into battle against Senegal for a place in the quarter-finals of the World Cup tonight – comedy legends Morecambe and Wise

Manager Gareth Southgate is a big fan of Eric and Ernie, and believes their philosophy for great comedy applies to the best coaching too: it’s all about timing

Mr Caulfield, who now works at Brentford Football Club, said: ‘We both love Eric Morecambe, and when he was asked the most important ingredient for comedy, he came back with just one word: “Timing.” In our roles [as psychologist or manager], it’s all about timing.’

He outlined how that applied to dealing with footballers. ‘The trick is to work out which days a player wants to say “Good morning” over breakfast and which days they don’t.

‘Who’s interested today? Who’s not? Coaching is the same. Some days you can, some days you can’t. Time the question wrong and you’re on the back foot for ever. You’re better off waiting.’

And mental strength will be key tonight as Southgate’s team aim to see off African Cup of Nations champions Senegal, and advance to a last-eight tie next Saturday.

As the knock-out stages get under way, England will face penalties if the teams are level after extra-time – and Southgate insisted yesterday: ‘We are prepared.’

Mental strength will be key tonight as Southgate’s team aim to see off African Cup of Nations champions Senegal, and advance to a last-eight tie next Saturday

The England boss, broken-hearted when his team lost on penalties to Italy in the final of the Euros last year, said: ‘We need to be ready mentally and physically and I believe we are.’

He said Marcus Rashford – whose miss in the shoot-out last year led to him being targeted by racist trolls – was ‘absolutely’ ready to step up again.

Southgate pledged to give the nation a match that ‘people remember for ever’, adding: ‘We will be considered the favourites and Senegal the underdogs, but that does not mean there’s no pressure.

‘We know they are African champions – we know exactly the size of the task ahead of us.’

Harry Kane, goalless in the competition so far, is adamant the World Cup starts here for him – and is confident he will start banging in the goals.

He said he hoped to go one better than in the run to the Euros final last year when he scored four times in the knock-out stages after failing to net in the group matches.

Harry Kane, goalless in the competition so far, is adamant the World Cup starts here for him – and is confident he will start banging in the goals

And England’s skipper said: ‘We’ve got four games to win the World Cup and that starts on Sunday.’ As the nation comes together for tonight’s 7pm kick-off:

  • 24 million TV viewers – almost half England’s population – are expected to watch the match live;
  • Power bosses are braced for the biggest surge of the year at half-time as kettles go on;
  • A staggering £325 million will be spent on food and drink for the game and fans will sink 35 million pints in the busiest Sunday for pubs since last year’s Euros final;
  • Two million England fans have booked tomorrow off as ‘Hangover Monday’ to recover.

As well as Eric Morecambe’s wisdom, Southgate is deploying an innovative team-building party game as part of his players’ daily routine. It involves evening role-play sessions of Werewolf, in which cards are distributed face down naming some players as ‘wolves’ and the majority ‘villagers’.

Through interrogation, villagers have to identify the wolves, who will lie and bluff as they pretend to be villagers. Tottenham Hotspur’s Eric Dier, who introduced the game, said squad spirit was ‘a huge aspect of international football’.

He added: ‘You never have enough time to be as good tactically as you would at your club.

‘But one thing you can [get] is that spirit. It’s definitely something that we’ve had in the last major tournaments. There are different things each tournament and this time it’s the Wolf game, which brings everyone together, breaks the ice.’

Supporters are also turning to Morecambe and Wise to rally them before the big match, hoping the words of their trademark song Bring Me Sunshine will ring true: ‘Make me happy through the years, never bring me any tears.’

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