That is exactly what Huddersfield manager David Wagner put his troops through as part of their pre-season training; a ‘Bear Grylls’ type survival course which he attributes to their success so far during this campaign.
He believes taking his players out of their pampered comfort zone and on a back to basics, man v wild break was the perfect way to ‘bond’ a squad containing 11 new signings.
“When you are in the wild for three days without electricity, without mobile phones, without internet, even without food really, you have to speak to each other and come into contact with people,” says Wagner.
“It makes no sense to sit alone in the corner even if you are new. Nobody likes to do that. Maybe you can do it for two or three hours but then you like to speak with somebody.
“I had done this trip before and I knew that nothing is better to bind the group together in terms of creating some first relationships.
David Wagner took his Huddersfield players through a bizarre pre-season routine
David Wagner has said Liverpool boss and good friend Jurgen Klopp has wished him good luck
“The idea was to gel the group together by putting them in two-man tents and two-man canoes – they were in canoes for eight hours each day – and rotated who was with who.
“We had some food – but not a lot. In the canoe you don’t have so much space for the four days! We learned how to fish, to eat. We cooked it. We found wood to make a fire and if you wanted to make a cup of coffee it took 45 minutes because first you had to find wood, then build a fire then go to the lake for water.
“Toilet? There was no toilet. It was an island so you had to find a tree!”
Those few days they spent together toughened up his players up for the rigours of a Championship promotion challenge. They are third behind Newcastle and Brighton, have lost only once since the end of November and today (Sat) aim to knock Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City out of the FA Cup.
As you can tell, Wagner is not your normal football manager. He is a bit of a clone for close pal, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp – he was his reserve-team coach at Borussia Dortmund.
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Like Klopp, he wears a baseball hat and glasses, he has the same trendy beard and a flashing smile. He also has a university degree and a grown up take on getting the best out of footballers.
“We had to push their buttons and take them out of their comfort zone,” he says. “We are all together in this football business but we don’t really live in the real world. People in this business can usually have and buy what they like. There’s nothing they cannot have.
“Even the Championship is in the comfort zone as well. They had to leave their comfort zone and we wanted to prepare them for this.
“The young guys, sometimes they don’t know how the real work works. So it’s about coming back to your roots, to feel something natural. It might be an experience you don’t like to have every day, but afterwards that you feel the benefits. You come back and feel humble, how small you are. Everyone has to take out of it what they like.
“Did the players think I was a lunatic? You’d have to ask them – they didn’t think it was normal. Maybe they thought I was a bit crazy. And they still think that! I don’t think they liked it because it wasn’t enjoyable for them.
No one likes to leave their comfort zone. But it helped me to get to know the players’ characters. I was sure it could work.”
Wagner, 45, also has a realistic take on today’s cup tie. He has not bothered asking Klopp for advice on how to beat City and admits Tuesday’s battle with fellow promotion chasers Reading is more important than today’s game.
“The problem is that he is Klopp and the manager of Liverpool and I am not sure that what works for him will work for Huddersfield against Manchester City,” says Wagner. “Of course we have spoken but there is nothing he can do or say to help us. What did he say? Good luck!
“This is a bonus game. I just want us to play with freedom because it will have no influence on tour league performance.”
It will no doubt be survival of the fittest.