It may have been a dull and drizzly Thursday morning, but not even the wet weather could dampen spirits at Stamford Bridge – the home of Chelsea FC, and Soccer Aid 2019.
A galaxy of stars and footballers alike were out training for the 2019 tie which pits two teams of famous faces against each other in a fierce football match all with the aim of raising money for Unicef.
This year, Susanna Reid and Sam Allardyce will be in charge of the England squad, as they take on Piers Morgan and Harry Redknapp’s World XI team.
We watched as they warmed up on the pitch – and got some behind-the-scenes gossip from the players as they prepared for the big game. Here’s what we learnt:
1. John Terry is a hard taskmaster
Yes, Soccer Aid may be all for a good cause, but that doesn’t stop the former Chelsea captain from taking the match seriously.
Marching his team round the pitch, he then ordered his players to stand in a circle while they practiced passing the ball to one another in quick succession – and chastising them if they failed to make contact.
“I thought the footballers would be less competitive,” Lee Mack grumbled. “But they shout at you and they tell you where to stand.”
Terry is joined on the team by England stars Katie Chapman and Rachel Yankey, who are also similarly tough out on the pitch.
“I definitely try and hold my own,” Chapman told us. “The guys are great and have made us feel welcome – but football is football. Male, female, it’s the same rules and it doesn’t matter who’s playing it.
2. Mark Wright thinks he’s one of the professionals
Mark Wright’s is in the England squad for the third time, and the TV presenter (who once played semi-professionally) is quite the Soccer Aid veteran.
But after giving a speech to the rest of the Soccer Aid players, World XI stars Kem Cetinay and Roman Kemp have marked the former TOWIE star as the one they both really want to beat.
“Wright was giving it the big one,” Kemp joked. “He gave such a big speech last night. He wants this so badly. I think Mark thinks he’s a pro-footballer.”
“The England team are taking it really, really seriously this year,” added Cetinay.
But regardless of whatever teams our stars play on, the Soccer Aid players have all become fast friends – seeing the most unusual of bromances arise…
3. Danny Jones “is faster” than Usain Bolt – no, really
We never would have guessed that Danny Jones from McFly and Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt would turn out to be best mates – but the pair have really bonded thanks to Soccer Aid.
Jones joked that they had developed “a really friendly, but real, rivalry” after the singer was ranked as “faster” than Bolt after being logged as the speediest player.
“I feel great knowing I’m the fastest man on the pitch,” he said.
It’s a fact Jones was seemingly keen to tell every journalist in attendance, with Bolt grumbling, “I’m not going to live this down today, oh my God.
“I was just trying to run some long distances, just trying to get my heart rate up but I didn’t know they were going to make it a competition so I was chilling. He won and I was like, ‘No!’”
4. But Usain Bolt beat Mo Farah in a space-hopper race
Bolt may be handing over his gold medals to McFly, but he’s still the fastest man on a space-hopper – beating our very own Mo Farah in an impromptu race.
“It’s always intense between the two of us,” he said. “Bolt wants to win at everything and so do I. That’s why we win medals and have the careers we have.”
5. Mo Farah has a very special celebration dance planned
Farah has a variant of his Mobot move which he debuted at London 2012 that he’s promised to whip out should he score a winning goal.
“I’m going to do the flying Mobot,” he told us proudly.
6. Piers Morgan has been winding up Susanna Reid…
Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain (ITV, JG)
They’ve always had a friendly rivalry on the Good Morning Britain sofas, but World XI manager Morgan seems prepared to antagonise Susanna as much as possible.
Taking sneaky snaps for Instagram, Reid was spotted batting Morgan away as he laughed at her.
But despite knowing the onslaught she may face on Monday morning should her team lose, Jones thinks Reid actually has the upper hand.
“Piers is coming in attacking, while Susanna is being cool,” he said. “She’s scaring Piers a bit. We’re doing this for Susanna.”
7. Even some of Piers Morgan’s own team wants England to win – just to wind him up
Morgan’s infamous love-to-hate personality has reportedly got even his own team’s backs up, with the World XI rumoured to be rooting for Reid’s England squad.
“I genuinely think the World XI team want us to win,” Lee Mack said.
“They do!” added Ben Shephard. “Robbie Keane was applauding us, Didier Drogba was applauding us. They don’t want Piers to win.
“Think about how unbearable he’d be,” said Mack.
“Working under Piers Morgan is rough,” agreed World XI player Bolt. “He’s not taking any prisoners. He’s here now and he wants to win.
“But we want to win because we’ve never won before. We’ve got a good team, so it’s exciting.”
8. Ben Shephard might mute Piers on Twitter after the match
The GMB host told us he was happy he does not have to deal with Piers face-to-face on Monday morning, but teased he may put a soft-block on his co-host should he gloat on Twitter.
“He’s not muted yet, but come Monday morning, we’ll see,” he joked.
9. Celebrations for the winning team may not be as messy as you’d think
Both Shephard and Mack, who took part last year, want to have just as riotous a victory party as they did in 2018 – but are aware that they are not as young as they used to be.
“The kettle got broken,” said Shephard. “But some of us are middle-aged fathers – you get off the pitch, you sit down, and you think, ‘Ah it’s going to be amazing,’ but then you’re just shattered.”
“It was absolutely brilliant, last year,” added Mack, “But I was disappointed there wasn’t any Bovril.”
Soccer Aid for Unicef will be broadcast live on ITV on Sunday 16th June, starting at 6.30pm. To donate to Unicef, visit socceraid.org.uk