PERHAPS it is in the Scottish nature to look for the potential pitfalls and downsides to what seems an otherwise positive situation, but while it is hard to be dour in any way about Scotland’s qualification for a major tournament for the first time in over two decades, there is one part of the nation’s Euro 2020 adventure that manager Steve Clarke is far from looking forward to.

That is the prospect of choosing his final 23-man squad, and the inevitably heartbreaking conversations he will be forced to have with those he is leaving out.

Clarke knows more than anyone how it feels to narrowly miss out on making a Scotland squad for a major tournament having come close to making Andy Roxburgh’s Italia ’90 pool, and he is all too aware of how tough those conversations will be.

But it is perhaps a sign of the improving fortunes of Scottish football that there will be plenty of players who feel they should be included. Given the stock that Clarke places on the harmony within his unit though, most of those selected will surely have played a significant part in getting Scotland there in the first place.

“There’s going to be a helluva a lot of good players who miss out,” Clarke said.

“It’s the hardest part of the job. One of the hardest parts of being a football manager is picking a starting XI and leaving people on the bench. Even harder than that is leaving people out of your squad altogether.

“That is something I am going to have to address. I can have some empathy with them, if not sympathy. Because I have been in a similar situation where I was very close to being involved in the Italia ‘90 squad. I was in the final group who went to a pre-tournament camp in Italy and I missed out on selection.

“I am going to understand how they feel. I am sure they will all take it in the right way, whoever doesn’t make it. But listen, there is a long way to go before I pick that squad.

“I’ve got to pick a larger squad for the March games, the World Cup qualifiers. We are in a group where all the teams in there will be thinking there are points to be won.

“Hopefully we are not in the same situation as last time where we had one team, Belgium, who just won every game and took 30 points. I don’t think you will have that this time.

“Injuries permitting, you probably have the nucleus of the squad that is going to be there. But there are places up for grabs.

“I think that’s got to be a motivating factor for everybody who thinks they have a chance of being in the squad.”

Certainly then, if any potential outliers who haven’t been around the Scotland set-up of late have an eye on gatecrashing the party, they will have to go some to persuade Clarke it is worth potentially upsetting the applecart to add their talents to his core group.

“Listen, every professional footballer is very ambitious so if they think you can add one or two players who would make the squad/team better, then they would be accepted,” he said.

‘But I think if you go down the route of bringing in five, six, seven or eight players then it would be really unfair on the players who got us there.

“The harmony of the squad, the togetherness, is a big thing. One of the things I’ve tried to do since I got the job is keep the nucleus of the squad the same.

“I don’t see that changing, to be honest.”