Inside England's secret live gig on eve of France clash... with Robbie Williams

Robbie Williams performs on stage at Key 103 Christmas Live at Manchester Arena - Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images
Robbie Williams performs on stage at Key 103 Christmas Live at Manchester Arena - Shirlaine Forrest/Getty Images

England have prepared for their World Cup mega-clash against France with the help of Robbie Williams performing a secret live gig at the squad’s Souq Al Wakra headquarters this week.

With three days to go before meeting the competition holders and Kylian Mbappe, players have been relaxing by the swimming pool after training and were given the surprise visit from the ex-Take That singer who performed for them last night.

Williams, 48, is in Qatar to perform at Doha Golf Club tonight and has defended playing a concert in the Gulf state after its stance on gay rights and migrant workers who built the stadiums for the tournament.

He is also a huge football fan and was a founder of the Soccer Aid charity match where celebrities and ex-players in an England against the World XI team. Gareth Southgate’s players were thrilled to see him when he turned up at their team hotel to meet players and later his catalogue of hits.

While one of Williams’ most famous songs is Let Me Entertain You, England players have been preparing to showcase their potential to win the World Cup when they face the world champions on Saturday in Al-Bayt.

Southgate has tried to make his camp as relaxed as possible as players deal with being away from family and loved ones for more than a month. They have been allowed visits after matches with strict Covid tests to ensure there is no outbreak in the camp and players have been allowed out for meals or rounds of golf on rest days.

It was very different at the European Championships when the England squad were in a bio-secure bubble at their St George’s Park home in Burton. Southgate’s staff have tried to ensure the players are relaxed when away from training and on their run to the Euro final they were given a surprise concert by Ed Sheeran.

Earlier in this tournament they were visited by former England captain David Beckham, with footage of Bukayo Saka going viral when he politely asked for a selfie with the 115-time capped midfielder.

Beckham reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup as part of the “Golden Generation” team that never made it to the latter stages of a competition like Southgate’s squad, who have reached the semi-final and final in their last two major tournaments.

Their downtime in their Al Wakrah base for this tournament has been around the hotel pool where they have bonded over a card game called Wolf, which is based on deceiving others. “It’s about being the best liar,” said midfielder Declan Rice. “The villagers have got to snuff out the wolves and the wolves have got to lie and tell everyone why they are not a wolf.”

Southgate’s squad have been playing on an outdoor basketball court and enjoying their free time when Williams played his gig for them. He is a fan of League One club Port Vale based near where he grew up in Stoke-on-Trent.