WHEN the Scotland squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers was announced last week, there will have been managers all across the country that will have beamed with pride after seeing their players get a call-up. But there was also one assistant manager, plying his trade in the third tier, who allowed a wry smile to flash across his face.

Alan Archibald, the current Partick Thistle assistant who served as manager between 2013 and 2018, is intimately familiar with three of those who were called up by Steve Clarke earlier this month.

Hibernian striker Kevin Nisbet, Celtic defender Jack Hendry (currently on loan at KV Oostende in Belgium) and Motherwell right-back Stephen O’Donnell were all handed their first starts in the sport by Archibald at Firhill and now that the trio are on the brink of pulling on their nation’s famous dark-blue jersey, there are few as pleased for the players as the Jags fan favourite.

All three have suffered their fare share of adversity of the course of their careers – but Archibald is convinced that those troubling times have helped make them the players they are today.

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“I was delighted for Kevin,” Archibald said of Nisbet’s call-up. “You always want to see ex-players doing well – even more so when it’s guys who have had to deal with setbacks and rejection, and Kevin’s had that. You actually get more satisfaction when it’s someone you’ve let go.

“Everyone in Scottish football, every manager, knew Kevin’s ability. It was just about timing for him. He needed an attitude change; to go away and get the right mindset, and he’s done that. We’re all proud of him.

“All three players had similar pathways. I think Kevin was 15 or 16 when he was released from Hibs and we took him from there. We knew right away he was a player and every time we played Under-20s games he would stand out a mile. It was actually far too easy for him.

“But getting him in the first team and getting him performing was a serious problem for him. Knowing the work he had to put in to be a first-team player – and he’s done that, he’s went away and really worked on his game – he probably wouldn’t have done that if he hadn’t left Thistle.”

Nisbet himself has admitted that his release from the Jags gave him a much-needed kick up the backside that reinvigorated his career but Hendry’s situation wasn’t exactly the same, as Archibald explains.

“Jack was a bit different – he was uber-confident in his ability,” Archibald said. “He got a bit frustrated because Liam Lindsay was ahead of him in the team at that time but once he got in, he took his chance. He only played a handful of games for us and then we sold him to Wigan.

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“He has great attributes like his pace and his ability to come out with the ball. I think that’s why he’s in the squad now. The back three really suits him because he can play with the ball and really dictate play for you from the back, or he can play on the outside because he’s got great recovery pace.

“He’s had a few setbacks as well. I know Celtic fans were a bit frustrated with him because Jack will not hide. He’ll take the ball and drive out with it. That’s one thing he’s got: confidence in his own ability.

“Without a doubt [he fits the system]. Steve Clarke will make him better because he’s made most of the defenders he’s worked with better. He’s improved the defensive side of Stephen O’Donnell’s game and Jack can do the same. He’s playing against some real pacey strikers at a good level but I’ve no doubt Jack will deal with that.”

There have been calls from some sections of the Tartan Army to drop O’Donnell from his starting berth at right wing-back for Scotland, but Archibald insists that his former player has the perfect skill-set to shine within Clarke’s system.

“With the way the game has changed now with wing-backs back in fashion, Stephen O’Donnell is a perfect wing-back,” he said. “We had to stop him going forward because he wanted to do that all the time. But at wing-back he can receive the ball, everything is in front of him and he can go and join in attacks. There’s a little less defensive onus on him and that will help him out.

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“It’s his jersey and he deserves it. He had a wee sticky spell where he had one or two below-par performances but I think he owned up to that.

“The jersey is his. He was outstanding in the last few games and Steve Clarke said as much. And he’s got a great relationship with Steve as he made him a better player.

“If you want an attacking wing-back, there’s no one better. If you need someone to get up and down the pitch, Stephen is the person to go and do that.”