As Gavin James walked into the scorching heat at Arnos Vale Stadium in St Vincent and the Grenadines he did so with the famous FIFA anthem ringing in his ears.

The 26-year-old is more accustomed to plundering goals past helpless opposition at Wilks Park for his club side Flackwell Heath rather than preparing himself to make his international debut in a World Cup qualifier against Guyana.

James, who qualified to represent the Caribbean island through his grandparents, admits he could scarcely believe he was about to win his first international cap as he lined up for the national anthems alongside ten players who were mere strangers when he got the call up on May 29.

A plucky email sent to the St Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation (SVGFF) set the ball rolling on the forward’s journey into international football, culminating in his debut against Guyana in the first leg of a second round qualifier.

“They play the FIFA anthem as you walk out and it was one of those things that gives you goose bumps as you’re walking out as there is this iconic music playing,” said James.

“You all line-up, they play both national anthems, then you have a team photo and I kind of had to pinch myself and wonder if it was really happening.”

When the original call from Dominique Stowe, a committee member of the SVGFF, came his way, James arranged time off from his job as a trainee teacher at Chesham Grammar School, packed his bags and jetted off on June 2.

On arrival in the Caribbean, James was welcomed into the training camp, which was based in a town named Brighton, and introduced to his teammates – a mix of players who came from afar afield as Finland and America to be part of the squad.

After playing 45 minutes in a practice match on his first day, head coach Cornelius Huggins informed the striker that he had done enough, with James himself feeling “comfortable” in his new surroundings.

The Bucks New University graduate felt he was in with a good chance of playing against Guyana – suspicions which were confirmed when he was asked to head to the Nichols Building in Kingstown, home of the SVGFF, to meet the media.

“On the Friday (June 5) morning the manager said to me that there was going to be a press conference at the FIFA office so I need to be there. When I turned up it was me, the captain, the vice-captain, the coach, the president of FIFA over there and an ambassador.

“I kept thinking to myself ‘considering who I’m here with I’ve got a good chance [of playing] here’. The day before the game we had a training session and he said the team I was in was maybe the one he would be starting with, but nothing was set in stone.

“I prepared myself as if I was going to start and then when I turned up in the changing room for the game he read the team out. I was the last name called and he said ‘and a first international cap for...’ and then he called my name and that was it, it was going to happen.”

The Arnos Vale Stadium, which is more commonly used as a venue for Test match cricket, was a far cry from what James is used to and the searing heat made life hard for the lone striker.

Having trailed at half-time St Vincent equalised through Cornelius Stewart after 51 minutes. James was substituted soon after and watched his replacement, Tevin Slater, snatch an equaliser seven minutes from time after Guyana had retaken the lead.

“I was happy with my performance although I would have liked to get longer,” explained James.

“I was playing as a lone striker and when you do that over here (England) it’s ok but when you do it in that heat – he expects you to run, chase down and you just feel exhausted.

“There’s been a few highlights put on Youtube and I’m in quite a few of them, so I was quite pleased with how I played. A few people said I played well but it was just unfortunate with the heat.”

With two away goals and Bolton midfielder Neil Danns poised to make his international debut in the second leg, Guyana were the hot favourites to progress when they hosted St Vincent at Providence Stadium on June 15.

But the mood within the St Vincent camp – which included fellow High Wycombe players Brad Miguel and JJ Lofthouse-Smith – was a confident one.

The two aforementioned players didn’t make the final 21-man squad for either match but they, like James, were able to find common ground with coach Huggins, who had played at Adams Park in 2003.

James said: “He was a really good manager and he actually played in the St Vincent team that played against Wycombe Wanderers a few years back.

“He played centre back in that game as did the other coach (Wesley Charles), so they were familiar with Wycombe and I think that helped.”

Huggins helped his country beat Wanderers 2-1 on that cold December night – conditions which were polar opposite to those which greeted his current side in Guyana.

A place in the third round of CONCACAF qualifying, and a possible meeting with Jamaica, was the prize on offer for St Vincent and they duly secured their place, albeit after 90 hectic minutes.

Watching on from the bench, James said his side were “cruising” at 4-2 up before Guyana pulled one back and Danns equalised with four minutes left.

The Flackwell front man came on for the final few “nervy” minutes and did his best to run down the clock before participating in the joyous scenes which greeted full-time.

“When the final whistle went it was like an eruption,” he said. “All the players were going crazy, they ran over to the crowd and they were celebrating before they got pulled away because there was 5,000 fans there, all Guyanans and they were enticing them.

“They were playing music and they must have been on the pitch for 20-30 minutes after the final whistle just celebrating.

“They were dancing, music was playing and it’s something which I’ve never experienced before. It was so good to see.”

James says he is yet to come to terms with winning his first two caps for St Vincent with his brother Ashleigh, who also plays for Heath, keeping him well informed of developments in England while he was away.

“It was amazing; I still can’t believe it now. Everyone’s been asking questions and it just seems so surreal that I’ve been there and done it and now I’m back here again.

“My brother’s been at home the whole time and he’s just told me how people have been talking about it, coming up to him in the street and saying how amazing it is and saying when he gets back let him know we’ve been tracking and streaming the games on the internet.

“I spoke to my manager from football and he was saying how proud he was, and that’s the same for my mum, dad and family.”

With St Vincent now in the hat for the third round draw, James will hope to feature once again on the road to the 2018 World Cup when Vincy Heat continue their campaign in August.

James said: “I spoke to the technical director (Keith Ollivierre) at an airport in Guyana and he was saying how it was nice to meet me, how he was impressed and that he wants to see me again.

“The coach said he’d want to work with me again and that he wants me to have a bit more time to get acclimatised to the heat and the players.

He added: “Everyone keeps coming up to me and saying ‘you’re an international footballer’ and it doesn’t even sound real.”