England's Euro 2012 base a far cry from sleepy Rustenberg

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England's Euro 2012 base in Krakow

BBC Radio 5 live chief football reporter Ian Dennis reports from Krakow in Poland, where England will be based for next summer's Uefa 2012 European Championship...

I am not sure whether it is a case of learning from previous mistakes, but the contrast from South Africa to Poland could not be any greater.

After the isolation and remote location of Rustenburg, where England were based for their ill-fated 2010 World Cup campaign, Fabio Capello's players will be situated in the heart of Krakow, a city-centre experience which will give them a real feel for Euro 2012.

Their charming, quaint boutique hotel is just 20 metres from the main square in Krakow.

Krakow
A view of Main Market Square in Krakow where England will be based

The Hotel Stary has plenty of history. Its medieval cellar has been transformed into a spa where the players will relax. Throughout the corridors of stone walls there are just 53 rooms - it's a venue with character and England fans will hope the shift in approach will provide a change in fortunes on the pitch.

In South Africa, the plush secluded surroundings of the Royal Bafokeng complex was self-contained and hugely isolated.

This time the training facilities are a 15-minute drive to the humble home of Polish lower league side Hutnik Krakow.

The short, leafy narrow avenue that runs from the tram lines and main road to the main stand is a fraction of the distance it took to wind your way on the dusty road to England's complex in Rustenburg.

At first glimpse the open, oval-shaped Hutnik Municipality Stadium looks very exposed, but I was told the FA is delighted with its location from a security point of view. The local authority will be able to block off access from the main road should the FA wish to provide Capello with more privacy.

The ground reminded me of The Shay Stadium at Halifax Town from 20 years ago, but the basic facilities will be refurbished and the pitch upgraded before next summer to meet with FA requirements.

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Hutnik will not play on their own pitch until after June as part of the agreement with the FA, who will have time to improve the playing surface.

That is nothing new as in previous tournaments in France, Belgium, Japan and Germany, the FA's ground staff have worked on making sure the pitches are to the players' liking.

There is also a sports centre behind the pitch which will cater for the players' needs while other facilities include a gymnasium and pool.

Even though qualification was only assured in October, plans have been in place over the last 14 months to identify Krakow as the venue for England's base.

Capello visited the camp last week but there has been a lot of input from various departments within the FA - ranging from administration to medical to make sure logistically the right choice has been made.

England will not be the only nation to be based in the beautiful cultural city of Krakow for Euro 2012.

It is not one of the host venues, but the Netherlands have already confirmed they will be based here and the Italians could follow suit, depending on the outcome of the finals draw on 2 December.

It has many appealing features but one of the attractions is its transport links with the rest of Poland and Ukraine, which will co-host next summer's tournament.

The mayor of Krakow, Jacek Majchrowski, has said he is very happy to have England in his city and while they have been accused of being aloof and distant in past tournaments, they will not be detached next summer and the FA should be applauded for the change in policy.

Hutnik Municipality Stadium
The humble-looking Hutnik Municipality Stadium's main stand

Inside the glossy brochure of their hotel is a recollection of a journey called 'A Letter to Lucilius'.

It reads: "My dear Lucilius, I have arrived in Cracovia, which lies on the road from Gniezno to my beloved and sorely missed Italy. I find the city to be grand and decorous, raised to the heavens with a new breadth of vision. I am staying in a house near the main square, an impressive building of brick and stone in the proper proportions."

The year was 1257.

And in 2012 in those sturdy, strong walls, Capello will plot one final chapter before he himself returns home.

Only time will tell if his recollections of Krakow will go down in history and banish the memories of the 2010 World Cup debacle.

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