Scott McTominay is adamant that he has never regretted his decision to align himself with Scotland, and while he admits “it’s not all sunshine and rainbows” at the moment, he says players have to accept when they are going through a bad period and work hard to escape it.
This evening they face a San Marino side bloodied by a 9-0 drubbing at the hands of Belgium earlier in the week, aware that anything but a victory over a side who have not scored in two years and never won a competitive match on the road, would be unthinkable in the current climate.
It amounts to a huge measure of pressure for a squad that has had its character and temperament questioned following recent collapses against the likes of Russia and Belgium.
But McTominay is steely in his resolve, used to the microscopic examination and lofty demands of playing for underperforming giants Manchester United week in, week out.
“The pressure, whatever league you’re playing in, is down to how you handle it,” said the midfielder. “You have to deal with it in a positive way and react in a way that’s positive. You can’t take too much notice of what’s being said elsewhere. We have to concentrate on the pitch and that’s what I’m thinking about.
“The manager and your own players are what’s important, and you have to keep your head up, because as soon as your head drops, then it gets twice as difficult.”
With a blinkered view of the play-offs in March, the upcoming three qualifiers are viewed as pick-me-ups as the Scots try to build momentum.
“Our objectives are in front of us and we are sticking by that as a squad,” said McTominay, who sat out the Russia game through suspension but is looking to make the most of today’s Hampden showdown.
“We have to forget the last four games. We know it is difficult, we have not picked up results but the next three games give us the chance to finish third in the group which is vitally important.
“Come March we want to be in a positive frame of mind and have a positive atmosphere around the group. There is still everything to look forward to and although we have to be disappointed about the results before, when you are in camps there is always the next game of football to look forward to. That’s so important.”
Sitting out games through injury as a teenager has taught him resilience and given him some inner grit. “No, no-one has drilled that into me. It has always been a way of life,” he said. “When I was 18 I didn’t play too many games, I was always injured. I had groin pains, things like that, so I had the experience of real lows of football and in the future you can always look back to that moment and think ‘it was bad then but now you are playing for Man United and Scotland’ so you have to be grateful for the opportunities you have been given as well.
“I feel like that natural strength comes from the experiences I have had and hopefully I can pass it on to teammates at club level and hopefully at international as well.
“We have to push that reset button. We are all experienced enough now to realise that whenever you are in a bad period you have to dig in and stick tight. That has been discussed with the players and the management and it is something we are looking to improve upon.”