AS she emerged from the tunnel and surveyed her surroundings, Linda Clement's thoughts drifted irrevocably towards next July.

There might only have been a few people milling around the new Glasgow National Hockey Centre last week but, as she strolled out on to the perfect pitch and turned to allow her gaze to take in the sweeping stand and towering floodlights, the Scotland captain found it easy to envisage representing her country at the venue in little under a year's time.

It was the 33-year-old's first visit to the Glasgow Green complex, and the first time the squad had trained at the site for the Commonwealth competition, and she could not fail to be impressed. A 500-seat grandstand and office space to house Scottish Hockey's headquarters overlooks two synthetic pitches at the bespoke council-owned complex in the city's oldest public park, with the addition of a further 4500 temporary seats planned to complete the amphitheatre. "I must admit, I did find myself imagining what it will be like to play there with the crowd behind you," Clement confides. "That's all the motivation you need."

Having also used the facilities at the Emirates Arena during a stint in the city in recent days, what lies ahead has suddenly become much more tangible. Clement talks of "feeling a real buzz" from just being around Glasgow but that sensation is perhaps heightened by the fact that the players have spent the past three months together as full-time athletes as a result of a Scottish Hockey and sportscotland agreement to fund two separate sabbaticals from their jobs; the second starting next April and running until the end of the Games.

The first stint will conclude later this month - meaning that Clement will return to her role as a PE teacher at George Watson's College in Edinburgh - having been instigated to help preparations for the Tri-Finance Euro Hockey Championships in Antwerp. Scotland are the lowest-ranked nation in their group at 19th on the world list and, given only one of the competition's seven other sides (Belarus, 21st) are considered inferior, they will have to perform above their station if they are to avoiding being one of two teams demoted to the second tier.

To do so, they will likely need to beat either Spain (14th) or Ireland (15th) in the relegation pool, but the captain will approach their opener against Germany on Saturday, and further group games against Spain and England, with loftier ambitions. "Our primary aim is to stay in the A division, but that might change depending on how well we start," she says. "We've been a yo-yo nation over the past few years so we want to establish ourselves at the top level and this will be a good test for us and a good gauge ahead of next summer."

Such belief is fuelled by the knowledge that the squad are better prepared than ever after their three months together. While Clement concedes that the amount of hours they have spent training has probably not changed significantly, their new status has afforded opportunities for such as video analysis as well as more time to rest and ensure they are eating the right foods at the right times. As well as the physiological benefits, there are psychological advantages too: whereas before they would perhaps walk on to the pitch against bigger nations encumbered by a feeling of inferiority, they can now consider themselves equals.

Given that they will go into Glasgow as the sixth best team in the Commonwealth, and have shown they can compete against Australia, New Zealand, England, India and South Africa in the past, there is justifiable optimism ahead of the Games. "The highest we've finished is fifth, and to break into the top four and become medal contenders, we'd need to beat a side ranked significantly higher," Clement explains. "We've show we can do it on one-off occasions so the challenge is to do it in consecutive fixtures in Glasgow. We know ourselves we're capable of doing it and, in the past, we've always going into these matches knowing the opposition is full-time so they've almost got an advantage before we step on the pitch, but not this time . . ."

As a veteran of three Games, Clement is as well-placed as anyone to make such assessments. The Fortrose native initially appeared destined for a career as a sprinter, having competed at under-17 national level, but received her first international hockey recognition in 1999 and made her Commonwealth debut in Manchester three years later. She has since gone on to earn an astonishing 210 Scotland caps and 18 for Great Britain, competing in both Melbourne and Delhi and will, despite her protestations about pre-empting anything, almost certainly captain the 16-strong squad selected for Glasgow.

That will make her one of the most experienced members of Team Scotland and that is a role she will relish. "When I was in Manchester, I didn't think I'd still be playing at this age, but I remember loving hearing the stories and opinions of the athletes who had been there before and I'd like to pass on my knowledge to the younger ones this time," says the forward of what will likely be her final Commonwealth appearance. "I remember Chris Hoy and Craig MacLean were the flag bearers in 2002 and they we all looked up to them, and I looked up to the likes of Rhona Simpson and Tracey Robb in the hockey team because it was all so new to me and I was just blown away by being at a multi-sport event.

"You have to enjoy the experience but not get carried away with it because there are a lot of distractions at a Commonwealth Games; I remember walking round the village in Manchester gawping at some of the famous faces but you have to remember why you are there. Other Games might have passed people by a little bit because they were in another country but this one will be at the forefront of people's minds and that brings a pressure but also an opportunity. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for hockey in Scotland so let's promote it and, if we do well, that takes care of itself."