When the final few words of Craig Brown's team talk were uttered following his side's 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Morocco in June 1998, the World Cup, for Scotland, was officially in the history books.

The umpteen subsequent failures to even participate at a major tournament have been heart-breaking, disappointing and, at times, embarrassing. Regular appearances had been the norm under greats like Jock Stein, Andy Roxburgh. Who can forget Ally MacLeod's prediction at World Cup '78?

It has been nothing more than a bad joke, then, that it has been a whopping 23 years since the last showing. Which is perhaps why the ecstasy - and relief - was palpable when David Marshall tipped Aleksandar Mitrovic's spot-kick wide to take us back to the big time. Steve Clarke's men that night in Serbia made their own history and got their country believing again.

That belief, you may not be surprised to hear, has not just been reserved for optimistic supporters with their blinkers on. Scottish football Hall of Famer and international roll of honour member Willie Miller is a believer that the Tartan Army could be celebrating records being broken this summer.

"We've never qualified from a group but we've been mighty close a number of times," the 65-time capped former defender told Herald and Times Sport. "It's just about taking that final step and going through, whether it be on goal difference or whatever. If we can do it with a bit of style that'd be great, but just getting there would be an achievement after such a long time.

"There seems to be a lot of optimism within the camp, plenty of players playing at a high level, European Cup finals, domestically and abroad in Jack Hendry. The noises coming out, the manager seems confident and has a lot of belief in his squad so we're in a good place to be optimistic of qualifying this time."

If anyone is qualified to talk about Scotland and their chances, it's Miller. He played at two World Cups for his country, after all. That achievement for the decorated ex-Aberdeen man is something that has not been replicated by any member of the current crop of stars inside Clarke's camp.

For Miller, though, that can only act as a benefit for Scotland. The players have no baggage. They have nothing to be fearful of. They are the first to do it in more than two decades, and they should enjoy it. "It won't hang over [the players] because they've qualified and that's where most of the pressure has come on various international teams over two decades," Miller went on. "Now they've qualified and the main thing was to get there, then go and play as freely as they can and I think they should be able to do that. I don't think there's huge pressure on them, they've taken that away from themselves by actually qualifying.

"The fact they've done that I think releases them to go enjoy it but the way you enjoy any game is to win and any tournament is to qualify. Not just going to enjoy the situation and taking part, the enjoyment is putting in a good performance and winning, that's where they are. They don't have any baggage, if they go and play to the form they're capable of I think there's a good chance of getting out the group."

Head coach Clarke has a laundry list of personnel predicaments ahead of the opening game against Czech Republic next week, but Miller believes the boss will thrive in that situation.

Midfield is, of course, arguably the Scots' most bulky position with players from England's Premier League battling it out for game time against treble Treble winners from Celtic and Champions League winners scrapping with Europa League finalists. Which is certainly a brand new issue for any Scotland manager to contend with.

But it's the centre of defence that has Miller debating with himself as to who should play from the start. "I think Kieran Tierney is an absolute stick-on at left of the three and I think the other two is up for debate," he said. "The central one could be any of three in Hanley, Cooper or Gallagher. I think Jack Hendry has done enough and he's naturally right-sided so looking at what's sensible I'd have a left-footer, right-footer either side of a centre who's comfortable. They've all played there so I think it's any one of the three who would be fine in my book.

"It's the manager's preference of course. The natural one for me going wide is Hendry, which is unfortunate for Scott McKenna, perhaps, but he could play in the centre as well! You go from a couple of years ago thinking where are the centre-backs going to come from to now thinking, 'Have we got too many centre-backs in the squad?' They're all top quality and putting a claim down. I can't really come to a conclusion to where Steve is going to go with that, but there's plenty of choice.

"A conversation between manager and player is important and watching a player in training. There's no doubt Callum McGregor, at the top of his game, would be first choice in midfield, for example. Maybe it's been a long haul for him with Celtic this season, maybe that's affected him. It's a big choice for the manager, he talks about sleepless nights, it's nice when you've got that kind of concern. But it would be really unfortunate if Callum McGregor didn't start, he's played a huge part in qualifying and everything being equal it'd be McGregor, [Scott] McTominay and [John] McGinn in midfield.

"There's plenty of other options, too. Stuart Armstrong, Billy Gilmour. I mean, Armstrong against the Dutch was outstanding. Gilmour had a cameo and looks like a player who can do something special. We have a wealth of choice in midfield, but a wealth of choice throughout the squad."

The suggestion is that Scotland, to have a chance of qualifying from their group which contains England, Croatia and Czech Republic, is to beat the latter in their opening fixture at Hampden.

But it's not as cut and dry as that for Miller. "You don't want to get beat (against Czechs) but a draw keeps you in it, keeps you hungry. A defeat puts you on the back foot but even a loss doesn't mean you're not going to qualify. There's three games here, third place can qualify if you're one of the top placed. You don't want to be the bottom team, you want to be at least third. Is it possible? Anything is possible.

"We're at home as are England, there's a lot going for both teams. I think the first game it's just important not to get beat. If we were to win it, it'd put us as one of the favourites to qualify because even finishing third I still think there's an opportunity there for a draw or victory. There's all different permutations, if you lose it's needing a major upset to turn it around, but there's a chance it could go to the last game against Croatia.

"We might get something down at Wembley because I don't think England are looking invincible. Any of the three games we should be looking to take something from. I don't think Scotland are in the group the way it's panned out that the other three nations are vastly superior. England will be the favourites obviously but the rest, I don't know if there's too much in it in all honesty."

The Auld Enemy clash is the one scribbled in everyone's diary. Circled countless times on every punters' wall chart. Even the most ardent Tartan Army card carrier will expect a tough game against Gareth Southgate's troops, but for Miller he reckons it's just another game and should be treated as such.

Yes, the English will have to be respected. They have a strong squad and a good manager. But they should certainly not be feared. Scotland have proved in the past they can give as good as they get and July 18 should, for Miller, be another example of that.

"Scotland prefer when the opposition have the bulk of possession," he added. "It's their game. You watch them against the Dutch, Netherlands had the bulk of possession but Scotland looked more dangerous going forward when we broke them down and played off them. If we can do that against England that would be Steve Clarke's aim. And probably against other teams as well. I might get that wrong against the Czech's, he might go offensive and play two up top. It's a case of going to Wembley and performing the same way they did against the Dutch, try to measure themselves at that type of performance.

"They've got players now who can score goals, they look solid at the back and they are effective in midfield at times. I don't think there's a specific area you can pick out with England that'll be a weakness, all their players are playing at a high level. But it might be that they're forced to take it to Scotland which could suit us. If we can do that we'll be a threat.

"Be organised, disciplined and have belief and confidence. You've got to do it on the field in important games, that's where the squad will be measured. The fans would love to see Scotland take something from the game. And it would certainly allow the nation to dream about qualification, it's all to play for."