FROM the outside looking in, the Republic of Ireland’s preparations for the World Cup in Japan and South Korea back in 2002 appeared to be thrown into total disarray by Roy Keane’s infamous bust-up with Mick McCarthy and subsequent walk-out.

The row that flared between the Manchester United midfielder and his manager over the standard of the training facilities at their base in Saipan made headline news around the globe and ultimately led to their captain and best player returning home before the finals got underway.

Yet, Steven Reid, the Scotland assistant coach who was a member of the Ireland squad that summer, saw first hand how the Republic camp bonded in adversity and went on to reach the knockout rounds thanks in no small part to that unity. 

“You could argue it brought a togetherness to the squad in a way,” said Reid after taking part in the national team’s first session at their Euro 2020 training camp in La Finca in Spain. 

“It gave someone else an opportunity to play in that midfield position. We got out of the group and got knocked out on penalties to Spain. We arguably could have gone a lot further in the competition because we were the better team against Spain. It was the pinnacle of my career.”

It goes without saying, though, that Scotland manager Steve Clarke will be keen to avoid any public spats or high-profile controversies in the coming days as he builds towards the opening Group D match against the Czech Republic at Hampden next month.

Having Reid alongside him, then, will be invaluable. The former Millwall, Blackburn Rovers and West Brom defender cum midfielder is the only member of the Scotland squad with previous experience of being at a finals. Clarke has tapped into it. 

“It’s about managing time well,” he said. “There is a lot of down time, a lot of time together over an extended period of time.

“And not everyone’s going to play the amount of minutes they would like. It’s about team harmony because for some it can be difficult if they are not getting minutes on the pitch.

“It’s a long time away from home. It’s fantastic to be here, but it can be a long trip so it’s important that we think of different ways to keep the boys occupied, whether it be little quizzes, or little bits and pieces that we can think of to keep them occupied and keep them enjoying it.

“There are little bits I can offer the gaffer hopefully having been in that tournament with the Republic, ideas I can bring in to help the lads as well along the way. I was the youngest in that squad when I went with the Republic so hopefully those experiences can help along the way.”

However, Reid is confident there is nobody within the Scotland squad who will cause unrest if he is not selected or is in any way unhappy or unsettled during the build-up to the Euro 2020 finals.

He feels the successful qualifying campaign, which culminated in the emotional penalty shoot-out triumph over Serbia in Belgrade in the play-off final in November, has created a camaraderie which will prove invaluable in the weeks ahead. He feels they should target a place in the knockout rounds.

“Without a doubt this is a humble group with no egos,” he said. “We’ve got players who are playing at various levels. We’ve got Premiership and Champions League winners, two of the squad in European finals and a mixture of different players.

“But when we come together there’s a real excitement to be here, which has grown over the last few years. I just sense now the lads are arriving on a high. They want to see their mates again, it’s like a home away from home.

“It’s almost like a club feel here. That’s how it certainly feels to me, this is like a second club environment. It’s not been easy to get there. The results can help it and since we qualified the focus has been for all of them on getting in to the squad. We had the World Cup qualifiers, but everyone was fighting for their lives to get one of those spaces.”

Reid added: “The key thing is not just turning up, happy to make the tournament. Now it’s about progressing out of the group and making a bit of history. You just never know. You never know. You’ve seen in a lot of the European Championships the underdogs going all the way and getting into the latter stages of the competition.

“With the ability we’ve got and the quality we’ve got in the group, with the feeling of the group that’s developed over the last couple of years there’s no reason why we can’t go and make a little bit of history and that’s the message that has been driven in, certainly this morning from the gaffer.”

Clarke managed to steer Scotland to their first tournament finals since France ’98 last year despite being severely restricted in the amount of time he could spend with them on the training pitch.

The former Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle United assistant is relishing the chance to spend several days working with his charges ahead of the friendlies against the Netherlands and Luxembourg next week.  

“These next few weeks are going to be great, actually having an extended time to do some training,” said Reid. “I’ve said before, that’s one of the most difficult parts of the job.

“Some of the boys in the Premier League and the Celtic and Rangers lads are usually playing on the Sundays in the televised games. Monday and Tuesday are pretty much recovery days, Wednesday could be the day before the game and a light session. It has been difficult to get those consecutive days to do the tactical work.

“These next few days will be great for that with the facilities here and hopefully the weather. There will be some down time as well after a tough season. Hopefully it’ll all come together to give us the best chance.”