The England Under 20s Women’s Football squad spent 48 hours with the Royal Marines – hoping to benefit from the same grit and determination which steeled Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad.
The Young Lionesses are just a month away from appearing in the U20 World Cup finals in France.
Thirty-one players tackled the commandos’ fearsome endurance course, spent a night in the open and slithered and trudged through the gunk in the River Exe estuary on the infamous mud run.
They followed in the footsteps of the England men’s team who were put through their paces by the Royal Marines at the Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, near Exeter.
The England supremo called on his team to take inspiration from the marines as they went into their nailbiting knockout clash with Colombia earlier this week.
The U20 women face an equally-tough challenge if they want to lift their World Cup in France next month; they need to see off North Korea, Mexico and Brazil just to get out of their group.
After their exhausting training with the green berets – including a night on Woodbury Common – they sat down with the Royal Marines to watch England defeat Colombia on penalties to reach the quarter-finals of the competition.
“The experience has been incredible,” said head coach Mo Marley. “The girls are closer now than they’ve ever been, and we’re in a much better place as a result of this experience with the marines”.
Twenty-year-old midfielder and U20 captain Grace Fisk, who plays for Millwall, thanked the commandos for “an amazing few days that has made the squad hungry for success”.
Royal Marines Captain Olly Mason said the Young Lionesses were “an outstanding team with an incredible mindset – and we wish them every success in France.”
He added: “There has been a positive change in the men’s senior team since their visit to the Commando Training Centre, and we look forward to maintaining a close relationship with the Football Association.”
The Royal Marines, who are part of the Royal Navy, are the UK’s elite amphibious force. They serve on operations, are held at high readiness to deploy or exercise preparing for operations. Their flexibility enables them to undertake numerous roles from conflict prevention to specialist amphibious operations.