THE old cliché goes that you shouldn’t get too high when you win or too low when you lose.

It is a balance that maybe Scotland didn’t quite strike over the last few days, but nobody could blame them. The defeats have hurt, but this time it was all about the win.

On the back of that famous night in Belgrade, losing to Slovakia and Israel wasn’t quite what Steve Clarke had in mind. A European Championship berth was earned, but Nations League promotion and a World Cup play-off spot agonisingly slipped through Scotland’s grasps.

It was a reminder of where Clarke’s side are at present but coach John Carver knows the moments of euphoria – like those on and off the park following the win over Serbia – must be savoured as much as possible.

“Yeah I think we have had a little bit of a reality check,” he said as he reflected on Scotland’s mixed fortunes during the international schedule. “Losing the next couple of games wasn’t nice but it is not that often you get yourself in a position of enjoying football situations like we did.

“It was an opportunity for every member of staff, all the players to be part of qualifying for a major tournament and that doesn’t happen that often.

“In fairness to Steve, he mentioned that in the prior meeting and from where the save was made and we started the celebrations it does take some time to come back down to earth.

“It takes even longer for it to sink it because you are already thinking about your next game. As a coach, as a manager you are thinking about the next game. Our preparations started the next day and the Slovakia game but you have to enjoy those moments because they don’t come around that often.

“There are loads of highs in football, as we all know, but I think here the occasion was grave. We set a high standard and that is the standard we need to be attaining.

“It is gone now, it is over and now our preparations are for the World Cup qualifiers when they make the draw in December.”

Given what Scotland put into their shoot-out success over Serbia, both physically and mentally, it was no surprise that they couldn’t quite hit the levels in their final two Nations League outings of the season.

The margins were once again slim, but Scotland would fall on the wrong side of the line on both occasions as successive 1-0 defeats denied them their first crack at a World Cup spot through the play-offs.

“Let’s be honest, we are all human beings and after the emotions we went through that evening it was always going to be difficult,” Carver said.

“I will give you an example: Liverpool won the Premier League which they hadn’t done for so many years and they lost the next game [to Man City].

“So the emotions do take a toll but the players did everything that they needed to win those two games.

“They went into the game with the same attitude and the same commitment. The energy levels were amazing – the best I have seen – the chances were created.

“I am talking about 30 chances over the two games. That is a high percentage. We didn’t do too much wrong other than not put the ball in the back of the net.

“Yeah there was a bit of a comedown after the euphoria against Serbia but these are professional guys who do it day in, day out and I thought the way they applied themselves for the two games was the way we asked them do.”

The scenes at the final whistles in Belgrade and Netanya could not have been more contrasting as Scotland experience emotions at very different ends of the scale.

The international break must be looked back on as a success story, however. Having finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel, Clarke, his staff and players can now move towards a brighter future for our game.

“When we came in after Israel, a game we had dominated and created loads of chances in, there was a huge disappointment in the dressing room because we have gone a long journey,” Carver said.

“It started before I came in and we have gone a long, long way to set a high standard but you have to maintain that standard. We all talk about Scotland needing to be at major tournaments, we need to be competing at major tournaments.

“That squad is good enough to do that. If they believe, they are good enough to do that. The age of the group is such they can do it in the next two years, four years, six years but we all need to find some gems.

“We sat as a staff and watched the 21s in Greece but there are hidden ones out there too and we need to find them to put pressure on the others so they have to be on top form.

“Because no-one wants to miss out on this opportunity. Remember there is not one of those players who has been involved in a major Finals. There is only Steve Reid who has played in one.

“So they all want to be part of it and their performances will pick up at their clubs and give Steve a massive problem when he has to pick that final [Euros] squad but that is in the distance. That is far off. We have a bigger task before that and it is the World Cup.”