England manager Gareth Southgate has revealed that his squad has returned from a top-secret trip to the Royal Marines’ Commando Training Centre.
The Three Lions’ preparations for this month’s games against Scotland and France are due to officially begin on Tuesday.
However, the majority of the group reported at St. George’s Park earlier than usual, on Friday morning. It soon became clear, though, that this would be no usual training weekend.
Southgate gathered his players and support staff in one of the national football centre’s dressing rooms, where a member of the Royal Marines informed them that they would immediately relocate to Devon for the next 48 hours.
Upon arrival at the training centre, which is located between Exeter and Exmouth, the group immediately changed into their ‘rig’ – or, for the uninitiated, military training uniforms.
The following days would see them experience an array of activities that Royal Marines recruits undertake, including a night camping on Woodbury Common.
“We wanted to come and put the guys into a different environment, something they weren't expecting,” Southgate explained.
“The Marines talk about a dislocated expectation, and that was part of the theme of the camp – how will we be adaptable in moments of difficulty for us as a team?
“There were some team objectives around pushing themselves beyond where they thought they could go and knowing you don't want to let any of your team-mates down.
“We wanted to expose the guys to an elite environment with one of the elite forces in the world. We wanted them to see that there's another world out there.
“These guys represent Queen and country, and we do the same – but the consequences of failure for the Royal Marines are far higher. That gives us a good context and comparison.”
The group will reunite at St. George’s Park on Tuesday, with Southgate certain that the group has benefitted from their weekend’s experiences.
“I think we've taken so many different learnings forward from this in so many different areas, some of which are going to take a few days to sink in,” he said.
“For me, the greatest outcome was that we worked as one team – support staff and players. I think there was a real connection formed between everybody, and it was also a great life experience for everybody.
“We're always thinking about football and the small world we're in, but there are life experiences that'll stay with you forever and I think this will stay with everyone – from our side and the Marines' side.
“We've seen their standards and the pride they have in their identity and the green beret, which is a powerful message for us to link with the Three Lions. We've got to be brave in terms of how we play and what we do.”
The Commando Training Centre's commandant, Colonel Mike Tanner, said he and his staff enjoyed working with Southgate's men.
“It has been a real pleasure,” he enthused. “They threw themselves into every challenge with enthusiasm and good humour.
“The Royal Marines and England football team have much in common and the opportunity to share experience was valuable for us all.
“We are confident that this will be the start of a long and successful relationship.”
Gary Cahill, Eric Dier, Chris Smalling, Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones and Marcus Rashford are due to join their team-mates at St. George’s Park tomorrow, been unavailable for the trip.
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