'We've hugged and shed a tear': Gareth Southgate praises Royal Marine's impact on England footballers

Royal Marine Major Scotty Mills mentored the England team on how to cope with pressure before the World Cup finals.

In the summer of 2018, England's male senior side football side reached their first World Cup semi-final since 1990.

Manager Gareth Southgate praised the training his team received from Royal Marines prior to the tournament, stating the togetherness found within the England camp stemmed from their commando training, led by Major Scotty Mills, who has won the Millies 2018 award for 'Inspiring Others'.

Gareth Southgate with Scotty Mills at the Millies 2018

Maj Mills welcomed the team to the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre and mentored the team to cope with the pressure of a World Cup, including during the World Cup finals.

The 20-strong England squad under Scotty's supervision spent the weekend in Devon in army fatigues, completing a series of exercises designed for marine recruits.

These included a night camping under the stars on Woodbury Common, a four-mile hike with 21 kilos on their backs and underwater exercises.

Speaking about the time spent with them Scotty said:

"The staff and all the players all got stuck in together and they really truly started working together as a team."

Major Scotty Mills with England team
The England squad received training from Major Mills in 2017 (Picture: Royal Navy).

This year the England men's team reached their first World Cup semi-final in almost 30 years.

Most of the squad were not even born the last time England played in a World Cup semi-final, and their achievement in Russia was down in part to the inspiration of an expert coach from the Royal Marines.

Major Scotty Mills welcomed the England squad to the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre to put them through their paces and also mentored the team to prepare them for the pressure.

England captain Harry Kane gives his message to Major Mills.

Mr Southgate reflected on how the experience impacted his squad: "Everybody kept together, everybody went through all of the physical endurance together.

"That respect for each other was something that carried right through Russia."

As well as physical preparation, Scotty’s words of wisdom helped the squad prepare mentally for the tournament: "A couple of things we’d exchanged through that training period, I looked at from time to time when the pressure was building.

"Just to put in to context a World Cup, which is a pressured environment, but it’s all relative compared to what we ask our soldiers to go through."

Scotty holding 2012 Olympic Flag
Major Scotty Mills (front right) carrying the London 2012 Olympic flag.

While the England team's performance this summer is one of his major successes, Major Mills' commitment to inspiring others through sport is nothing new.

He was the lead Royal Navy Officer as members of the Armed Forces raised the Olympic flag at the London 2012 opening ceremony and has continued the Olympic legacy by promoting youth development and junior sporting programmes.

Commandant of the Commando Training Centre, Colonel Mike Tanner said: "He's just that sort of guy that brings out the best in people and let's them know that, even if it's a crazy idea, they can do it.

"The world needs a lot more like Scotty Mills." 

Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling during the training in Devon (Picture: Royal Navy).

Maj Mills began his military career in 1987, and soon after joining the Royal Marines he was deployed to Northern Ireland where he ended up completing seven tours.

His deployments also include travelling to Norway, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean with 42 Commando Royal Marines. He also served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He also spent two years training recruits at the Commando Training Centre.

He now focuses on the care and recovery of seriously injured and sick servicemen and women in the Royal Marines and Royal Navy.

Friend and former Royal Marine, Colour Sergeant Lee Spencer was injured in a road traffic accident: "His greatest asset is empathy.

"He really understands people and can feel for how you feel. That's a rare attribute, not everybody has it."

Gareth Southgate praised the emotional bond that Scotty is able to form with those he works with:

"I don’t mind saying we’ve hugged a couple of times and shed a tear. There aren’t many people I would open up in that way to."

Maj Mills, after he was presented with his award, said: "I’m completely humbled and really proud for my family, at home and family colleagues and the England football team.

"The manager was prepared to take some chances... we can see that in the belief in our football team."

Gareth Southgate said: "It was a huge part of our journey coming together as a team.

"We learnt more about the importance of the person next to you."