England friendships show era of club cliques is long gone

The player friendships inside the England camp that show era of club cliques are long gone

Jude Bellingham’s bromance with Trent Alexander-Arnold is not the only friendship that is blossoming inside England’s Euro 2024 camp.

And unlike the bad old days of disharmony and distrust, England’s players have left their club affiliations behind during their friends’ united trip to Germany this summer.

Bellingham and Alexander-Arnold showed off their new celebration after the Real Madrid superstar netted England’s winner in the victory over Serbia.

The pair have become close on England duty with no danger of club affiliations getting in the way, given Bellingham plays in Spain and Trent Alexander-Arnold is a Liverpool man.

But Lewis Dunk perhaps gave the best example of how there is no danger of the “club England mentality”, that blighted the days of Steven Gerrard, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard, returning any time soon.

Brighton central defender Dunk, who is one of 12 England players at their first major tournament, was asked to name who he has been getting on with best.

And it was a player from Brighton’s fierce rivals, Crystal Palace, who Dunk picked out by saying: “I’ve been getting on with Dean Henderson really well. There’s no rivalries in this camp, I can tell you that. You just get comfortable with someone and he’s easy to talk to, quite funny, a little bit stupid. No, he’s a good lad.”

The player friendships inside the England camp that show era of club cliques are long gone
Lewis Dunk and Dean Henderson have grown close - Getty Images/Eddie Keogh

That assessment was in stark contrast to the last so-called “Golden Generation” in the early 2000s, when Gerrard and Co could not shake off their club rivalries.

Speaking ahead of this summer’s Euros, former Liverpool midfielder Gerrard revealed that he used to pretend to like United duo Neville and Ferdinand when he was on England duty.

“When you’re lining up in the tunnel against Rio and Gary Neville you want to do everything in your power to beat them, there’s hatred there, that’s exactly how it is,” said Gerrard.

“When you meet up for England at that time, you pretend you like them, but your career finishes, their career finishes and your friendship starts for real. I’ve got nothing but respect for Rio as a player, played for a top club all his life, he’s a good fella as well.”

Chelsea’s Cole Palmer and Kobbie Mainoo graduated through the Manchester academies of City and United, respectively, but have become inseparable on England duty.

The player friendships inside the England camp that show era of club cliques are long gone
Kobbie Mainoo and Cole Palmer came through rival academies but have bonded at international level - Getty Images/Eddie Keogh

Other than playing the game “wolf” that inspired Bellingham and Alexander-Arnold’s celebration, England players have been bonding over Uno – which Dunk claimed to be good at – golf, Padel and basketball.

Conor Gallagher has quickly rekindled his friendship with Marc Guehi, who he played with in the Chelsea academy and then again while on loan at Crystal Palace.

The pair were also part of the England squad that won the Under-17 World Cup in 2017, along with Phil Foden, and Gallagher said: “There’s a lot of great friendships in the squad. I think a big part of enjoying training and enjoying every minute of this tournament is getting along with everyone and having a good time and being relaxed off the pitch so you can do your best on the pitch. I think it’s really important. Marc is a top guy, top player.”

The player friendships inside the England camp that show era of club cliques are long gone
Conor Gallagher and Marc Guehi came through together at Chelsea - Getty Images/Eddie Keogh

Ferdinand and Lampard grew up together at West Ham, but that was not enough to get over the club cliques that developed when they were at United and Chelsea.

Speaking back in 2017, Ferdinand said: “We [Lampard and himself] came through at West Ham together, did everything together like proper mates. I left and went to Leeds then Manchester United, Frank went to Chelsea and around that time our communication just disintegrated.

“It was down to, from my perspective, the obsession with winning. I didn’t want to see Frank have an edge on me. It was the same with Stevie and England, when we were battling them (Liverpool) for the Premier League, I didn’t want to sit around and have a beer with him because I didn’t want to hear what Liverpool were doing ... I think that’s what held us back.”

John Stones and Kieran Trippier last week heckled Jordan Pickford during a game of darts against a reporter and sat at the back of the room threatening to ask the goalkeeper awkward questions. They are part of a group that also includes captain Harry Kane and vice-captain Kyle Walker.

Ollie Watkins is said to be close to Dunk and Henderson, while his Aston Villa team-mate Ezri Konsa, who started out at Charlton Athletic, is in with what is described to be a “London crew” of Declan Rice, Bukayo Saka, Ivan Toney and Eberechi Eze.

Rice is also good friends with Jarrod Bowen from their West Ham United days and the forward said: “You can sit and have a conversation with anyone even if you’re not at the same club or you think ‘we’ve not really spoken before’. It just clicks, for me it’s one of the main things. Then come gameday you’re fighting for your team.”

Who said bromance was dead?