ONCE he regathered his bearings, Declan Gallagher’s Scotland debut was everything he had dreamed of. Here the Motherwell defender was, at the ripe old age of 28, stoically manning the barricades as his country eked out a win on foreign soil, while his mum, dad, wife and young daughter watched on from the stands.

Another startling stage in the footballing fairy tale of a man who spent more than a year of his career in prison after attacking a man with a baseball bat, it is little wonder he was a little emotional about it all as he spoke to the media at the GSP stadium in Nicosia on Saturday. He had come fresh from the dressing room, where he was given a round of applause from his team-mates on his first cap for his country, as was Steven Naismith for making it number 50.

“I texted my wife saying I felt like crying knowing that her and my little girl were there to see me get my first cap,” said Gallagher. “It was amazing. My mum and my dad and my wife and my little girl, and her mum and dad, were all over here. It’s a big achievement for myself and my family because they are the rock behind me. It was great as much for me as it was for them.”

“They’ve been over since Monday it’s been like a holiday for them,” he added. “My mum and dad were over in Russia too, they go everywhere I play and never miss a game. They were happy going with the Tartan Army into Moscow and basically they drank a few bars dry.

“There was a wee round of applause at the end of it, in the dressing room. Naisy obviously got his 50 caps so there was a round of applause for him and for me getting my first got a round of applause from the boys. It was definitely a special moment.”

It wasn’t just Gallagher’s nearest and dearest who got a name check here on Saturday evening. From his early days learning from the likes of Gary Caldwell and Stephen McManus at Celtic, to the period at Livingston where his career really re-gathered momentum, everyone deserved a mention. But none more so than his current club gaffer Stephen Robinson at Motherwell. Having kicked on again to the extent that he is now a Scotland international, Gallagher would dearly love to handcuff the Northern Irishman to Fir Park in the face of interest from Hearts.

“Everybody that has worked with me, I owe thanks to them all,” said Gallagher. “Livingston were a big part of it, being a defender there, and Stephen Robinson has pushed me massively.

“He’s pushed me on the park and off the park and he is always pushing me in the press. I owe a massive thanks to him and the backroom staff at Motherwell because they push me non-stop and they probably deserve as much credit as I do for getting into the Scotland squad.”

“Robinson said to me he was never going to back off me, he was always going to be on my case to push me to the next level. Now that I have been there and done it he is going to push me to stay there and obviously keep going up and up. Hopefully that’s what I can do.”

“I’ve texted him a few funny things, saying ‘don’t think you’re going anywhere gaffer’ and stuff like that. To be fair he deserves it, he’s an incredible manager and for me one of the best in Scotland. His attention to detail is magnificent and he deserves to go to the very top.”

It has been quite a journey which has taken Gallagher to this point but he is determined that it shouldn’t be seen as a one-match deal. There is still considerable flux in central defence in this Scotland side but Gallagher came on to a decent game and will be hopeful of keeping the jersey for Tuesday night’s meeting with Kazakhstan.

“It’s all I can do, take my chance, and hopefully I’ve done enough to get another chance,” he said. “But there are a lot of good players out injured just now and a lot of good players in the squad so I just have to keep doing well.”

“Once I got my breath, I enjoyed it. I found out I was starting on the night before the game. We had a team meeting. The gaffer likes the prepare the boys the night before the game, just to get any nervousness or anything like that out of your head so you know you’re playing and you can focus on your game.

“I thought Cyprus played some good football. When they threw the defender up front, I thought ‘thank God, they’re just going to start kicking it long now’ and that suited us a bit more. But I thought we were comfortable. I don’t think they created a great deal of problems for us, their goal was an absolutely worldy there is nothing you can do about that. I was delighted with the win on my debut. Everybody wants to play for their country and it’s all about trying to stay in the team now. Obviously, we’ve got the win but it’s up to the manager and what he does on Tuesday. He might want to freshen it up. At the end of the day we’ve got a big squad and a good squad I just need to keep working hard in training and see where it takes us.”