The former Falkirk and Dundee United boss is in the dugout for Friday’s encounter with Turkey at Tynecastle Park with manager Scot Gemmill hopeful of recovering from Covid-19 in time to travel to Kazakhstan for the second group match.
Scotland currently sit third in the group, five points behind second-place Denmark.
But just as important as victories for Houston is player development and progression. Nathan Patterson, Lewis Ferguson and Gilmour are in Steve Clarke's squad having played for the 21s in recent years.
“We need to win the two games if we want to challenge Denmark," he said. “If I’m being honest, we’d say that Denmark are probably favourites to finish second but there’s a lot to play for.
“It’s great to win and to qualify and we want to qualify, but seeing boys like Billy Gilmour, Ryan Porteous going into the A-squad, that’s the most important thing. That they develop and get the experience of playing against international teams.”
Houston and Gemmill have a strong dynamic. The former’s role as scout with Celtic allows him to monitor the Under-21 talents playing in Scotland with the manager taking a keen interest in players plying their trade south of the border, as well as in Scotland.
The pair have been in constant dialogue ahead of the Turkey clash and admitted the majority of the team is picked with some decisions to be made depending on how players train.
There is unlikely to be any communication between the pair during the game with Gemmill watching from home.
“I’ve done this before,” Houston said. “I’ve been in situations where you’ve got to make quick decisions and big decisions.
“He’s leaving it entirely up to me. If I want to play a particular player because I’ve seen him doing well in training, that’s the way it will go.
“We've always said playing first-team football gives them a great opportunity to come and join us.
“With the squad we have, we have no fear of putting anybody into the team because there is good strength in depth there as well.”