IT didn’t take very long for the pre-Euro 2020 wind-ups to start when Scott McKenna returned to the City Ground after Scotland’s dramatic play-off final win over Serbia in Belgrade back in November.

“Everyone at my club has been brilliant,” said the Nottingham Forest centre half. “They are all dead excited for me to be honest. I am really happy with that. Hopefully I can go and do well. 

“But obviously there is quite a few English lads in the dressing room. They wished me all the best - just not for the 18th (when Scotland play their Group D rivals England at Wembley).

“When I got back there was a big poster on my locker saying: ‘Congratulations on booking a place at the Euros . . . and a spanking by England!’ I have not found out who did it yet.”

McKenna, though, has resisted the urge to remove it. Instead, he has used it as motivation. The prospect of seeing it again after a sweet triumph over Gareth Southgate’s side is an appealing one for him.

“It’s actually still there,” he said. “I kept it up. Hopefully I can go back and I can rip it down after we beat them.”

The 24-year-old, who moved to Forest from Aberdeen for a £3m fee back in September, believes his time in the East Midlands has improved him as a player and increased his chances of being involved against the Czech Republic, England and Croatia at Euro 2020.

An injury ruled him out of the play-off semi-final against Israel at Hampden in October and he has, despite being fit and in the squad for the final, been unable to reclaim his place in the national team’s starting line-up since.

Steve Clarke selected Kieran Tierney, Grant Hanley, Jack Hendry and Scott McTominay ahead of him in the Qatar 2022 qualifiers against Austria, Israel and the Faroe Islands in March. 

However, McKenna finished the season strongly at Forest and is feeling good about his prospects of being involved despite the competition he faces for a start from Hanley, Hendry, Liam Cooper and Declan Gallagher.

“I managed to play 10 out of the last 11 games which was a good run for me in what was a bit of a stop-start season,” he said from the Scotland training camp in Spain ahead of the friendly with the Netherlands in Portugal on Wednesday night.

“It’s not as big a step up (from the Scottish Premiership to the English Championship) as people may think, but there are more teams in the league so you need to adapt to tactics a lot more and learn to play the same position differently. I have probably learned more tactically. I have also had to the demands of playing twice a week.

“I am just trying to impress the manager as much as I can. Obviously, KT will be the one who plays on the left of a back three and then there will be three or four of us all battling for the other positions. That will be a choice that the manager makes on what he sees from us in training and in the games.

“It is definitely the best competition for places since I have come into the Scotland squad. Liam and Kieran are playing at the top level in England. Granty has played at that level and has just got promoted again. They are top club players.

“But that is good for everyone, it pushes everyone along. It makes the lads who haven’t played so much try and improve as well.”

If the 16-times capped defender is overlooked for the side that Clarke selects to play the Czech Republic at Hampden on June 14 he is unlikely to take umbrage at his omission. His old Aberdeen team mates Andrew Considine, Ryan Jack and Kenny McLean have all missed out on the finals and he is grateful to be involved. 

“All the lads have all contributed a huge amount and we are obviously gutted they are not here with us,” he said. “They were big characters and big personalities within the squad as well. So it is very disappointing. All we can do for them is try and put in good performances and get good results and just make their efforts in qualifying more worthwhile.”

“Aberdeen were good enough to let me go in and use their facilities once their season had finished. They have a good gym and good facilities to use. It was very kind of them considering the trouble I’ve caused them over the years! It was nice to see some familiar faces. There were a lot of staff there from when I was there. It was good.

“I actually bumped in to Andy at Cormack Park and was speaking away to him. He was obviously disappointed, but he wished us all the best and wishes the squad all the best. He is definitely very grateful for the chance he had. He got three caps in the last six months. He is grateful for that, but I have no doubts he is very disappointed to miss out on such a big camp this summer.”

McKenna has been impressed by the standard of training in La Finca and feels that Scotland can achieve Clarke’s objective of reaching the knockout rounds of a major tournament for the first time in their history at Euro 2020. 

“We are not just here to make up the numbers,” he said. “One win might be enough, but we have to aspire to get more than that one win and make sure we get to the next stage. We are not here to make up the numbers, we have to try to get past that.”