SCOTLAND couldn’t have chosen a better place to finalise their preparations for the European Championships.

Steve Clarke and his players flew out to La Finca in Spain yesterday for their training camp and it is a destination I know well.

It was where the women’s team based ourselves for the Pinatar Cup last March, the tournament we were able to win right before the start of lockdown. 

Graeme Jones, who’s the Scottish FA’s head of high performance, came out with us for that one and was obviously impressed with what he saw and has recommended it as the base for the men’s team ahead of the Euros.  

As a venue we found it had everything we needed and I’m sure Steve and his players will feel the same as they work towards Wednesday’s friendly with the Dutch, the Luxembourg game and then the finals themselves.   

It’s walking distance to the pitches, the hotel is all mod cons, it’s aesthetically pleasing on the eye and has all the comforts you need.

It also looks out onto a beautiful golf course which I’m sure a few of the players will enjoy when they get some time off.

I read Steve talking about making sure the players have enough to occupy them whenever they have some down time and I couldn’t agree more.

I’m a big believer that players need to feel their home comforts to help keep them relaxed and focused on the job in hand.

We consulted with the squad before the World Cup about what they would like to do to keep themselves entertained.

Players like to relax in different ways and any squad will have a wide age range that will have different interests – I’m sure Nathan Patterson and Billy Gilmour at 19 will have different hobbies to those players in their thirties!

So you have to cater for everything. In France the big thing for us was Teqball which is a game played on a curved table tennis table but using a football and your feet and head instead of a bat.

The girls played that a lot and ran mini competitions to keep interest up. Some of them were on that table all day!

Jigsaws were popular among some of the group  while we also ran quizzes and got everyone involved in them. We also had darts, table tennis, Subbuteo and online gaming as well.

Coffee is a big thing for players nowadays so we got a proper machine so they could go and help themselves.
Craig Brown also suggested that it might be useful to give the girls the chance to learn some French beforehand to get the locals onside so a few enrolled for Babel courses and got quite into that.

You have to respect that there will always be some in a squad who are quite happy in their own company, reading a book or just chilling in their room.

But my captain Rachel Corsie was brilliant at checking in on her team-mates, making sure everyone was in a good place and getting the more reluctant ones along to events just to have them part of the group.

In France we were based in three places; Nice, Rennes and then Paris. We got the girls’ favourite pictures put onto a canvas and had them put up in their rooms for them arriving which was a nice touch by our commercial team.

I said at the start I wanted the players to enjoy the experience as much as possible so I gave them free time whenever I could.

In Nice I allowed them to have as much family time as possible. If I had the chance to do it again, I would maybe keep that to windows of down time rather than the entirety as it was maybe a bit too much free time in hindsight.

Steve and his players won’t at least have to deal with shifting from one place to the next with the squad based in Darlington for the duration.

And they won’t have the issue of allowing access to family and friends as they’re going to be in a bubble. So that’s one fewer distraction.

A little birdie has told me they’re going to have a golf simulator in there and I’d imagine the players will have put in other requests for what they want to do when they have time off.

Before then they have their first warm-up match against the Netherlands on the Algarve and it will be interesting to see how Steve approaches it.

Will he select players who won’t start against the Czechs? I don’t think so. I suspect he’ll go with the core of the team and then make some changes as it goes along.

One thing you might see is mixing up set plays. In our final warm-up game at Jamaica I was aware that our World Cup opponents would be studying us closely. So for that one game we didn’t deploy any of our favoured routines at corners and free kicks.

Steve might be thinking along similar lines ahead of these two warm-up matches. We’re getting ever closer to the start of the Euros and you can feel the excitement building across the nation.

This trip to Spain will be vital for Steve and his players just to make sure everything is as organised as it can be before the real action begins.