Roy Aitken stood shoulder to shoulder with Alex McLeish when he came within 90 agonising minutes of leading Scotland to a major tournament finals 12 years ago.
As McLeish prepares for his second European Championship qualifying campaign as Scotland manager, Aitken is backing him to make a flying start in Group I against Kazakhstan and San Marino next week.
If the Scots hope to establish themselves as serious contenders for a top-two spot and automatic qualification for the Euro 2020 finals, then maximum points on the road against the two lowest seeded nations looks very much like a prerequisite in a group which also includes Belgium, Russia and Cyprus.
“I don’t want to put pressure on by declaring how many points they should get but these are two games that you would expect Scotland to get something from,” said Aitken.
“Let’s first just look for the performance level being good and that should hopefully deliver victories. Alex will be setting his team out to win games and pick up points because I know that’s the positive way he works.
“It’s a reasonable start but it will still be tough as the whole group is difficult. But let’s hope he gets off to a good start.”
Former Scotland captain Aitken, a member of the management team during the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign which came so close to glory before a last-gasp 2-1 home defeat by Italy crushed their hopes, was pleased to see McLeish overcome a testing start to his second stint in charge by winning the inaugural Nations League group last year.
“That was an achievement in itself for Alex because Scotland are now in a play-off scenario at worst next year for the Euro 2020 finals,” added Aitken.
“It will give him time now to bed into the job and put his own stamp on the team in a proper qualifying competition. Hopefully he’ll get off to a good start and settles the nerves a bit.
“Criticism comes with the territory if you don’t get results. He’s experienced enough to know the stick is coming your way.
“But what I do know about Alex is that he’s dedicated, he’s knowledgeable, he’s hard-working and he wants the national team to do well because he is a big Scotland supporter.
“He has all the ingredients to be a top coach, as he has been in the past, so I don’t see why he can’t bring some success to the national team.
“I think he’s the right man for the job at this moment in time so hopefully the players will play to their potential when it comes to the qualifying games.
“I’m just glad that everything has settled down a bit after the hysteria over his first few games in the job. It’s an up-and-down scenario in football and amid it all Alex has to try to keep an even keel, which to be fair he does.
“Now he’s got a chance to settle himself, get into a competition and give him a good few games to hopefully get some points on the board.”