There has always been something of the drill sergeant about Terry Butcher. Little surprise then that he was left positively drooling over the England squad’s 48-hour boot-camp experience with the Royal Marines this week.
The unusual game preparation by Gareth Southgate ahead of his team’s trip to Hampden for Saturday’s World Cup qualifier was all about, the English manager said, taking his players “out of their comfort zone”. Butcher was back in a comfort zone all his own in meeting media at a Glasgow hotel to give his thoughts on the clash of the old adversaries, and doing so in typically ebullient style.
A paradox in being a Jock-baiting Englishman who has spent much of his adult life north of the Border, the former Motherwell, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Hibernian manager is also a paradox in being a softy as well as a former defensive hard man.
Hard enough, though, to think hanging tough with the Marines would have been right up his street, and that it’s right to keep football’s high-rollers grounded.
“I would have loved that, absolutely loved that,” he said. “I think I would have stayed with the Marines rather than come back and play football. Some people say I played like a Marine when I was a defender. But I think it was great. It seems trivial, but he took away their mobile phones and to the modern footballer that’s like removing an arm. The players did well to get on board with it.
“It’s something different. I think Gareth is different and putting the players outwith their comfort zone is great. I’d loved to have ducked a few of those players after they lost to Iceland at the Euros. If I’d been there, I would have held them under water.
“I used to do these team- bonding days when I was a manager. At Brentford, I took the boys to visit the army. At Inverness, we ended up in the harbour at Lossiemouth. It gets the players to think different things, to have a laugh and to bond.
“Even midway through the season, they would be talking about it and looking back on the memories.
“I can’t see club managers like Jose Mourinho or anyone else doing it. You could say it’s old fashioned, but it’s something different playing and being with England.
“The players earn vast sums of money. They are millionaires with jets, big houses and fancy cars. They are on a completely different level to my days.“I think they had to reconnect with what playing for England means, what an honour it is. Also, they have to enjoy the experience as well. You don’t like losing to Iceland and going out of tournaments early and the spirit had been missing – until now.
“I think Roy Hodgson had it up to a point and then Iceland [at Euro 2016] was a car crash.
“The players have moved on from that and learned from it as well. It would have been good to have put the players into the Marines after that game.”