Seeing Gareth Southgate leading his England squad on a training camp with the Royal Marines earlier this week jolted my memory and took me back to 1992 when we ended up in a forest in Finland during the European Championship.
It was when the late Graham Taylor was England manager and we were orienteering, completing Krypton Factor-type courses and speaking with psychologists. We actually lost former Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday defender Des Walker, who was playing for Sampdoria at the time, during the orienteering.
Three hours after we all arrived back at the retreat, Des came trundling in and swore blind that he hadn’t got lost in the woods. To be honest, I found it all absolutely pointless and I don’t think we, as a squad, gained much from the experience.
It was just the wrong time to do such an exercise as were already at the Euros, which was being held in Sweden, and it consumed about two and a half days when we should have been working on free-kicks and corners and analysing the opposition.
But that’s not to disparage England’s experience at the Commando Training Centre in Devon. Southgate needed to do whatever he felt right ahead of a set of fixtures against Scotland and France which come at a really awkward time.
Some players won’t have played a competitive match for the best part of three weeks when they take the field at Hampden Park for the World Cup qualifier on Saturday and the challenge for England’s coaching staff is to make sure their team is ready to compete.
I’m sure training will have been tailored accordingly but that 90 minutes is going to be hard and England are going to have to find their rhythm quickly. If Scotland sneak a goal then England could find themselves blowing out of their rear ends chasing the game.
It’s a game England simply have to win because if Scotland turn over the Three Lions it goes down in history and it is something those victorious players can and will dine out on for the rest of their lives.
When I played for England at Hampden Park the Scottish were buoyed and motivated and those matches, unlike typical international tussles, are just out-and-out battles.
England players have to make sure the match doesn’t pass them by as that is what Scotland will want. The hosts will be doing everything they can to ensure England don’t settle, because if they do then there will only be one winner.
Like the vast majority of encounters between the two nations, Scotland will look to ruffle and outmuscle England, who will have to be ready for that. Ultimately, Scotland have to do that because they have no chance of out-footballing England.
Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who has played at two World Cups and two European Championships. @TrevorSteven63