As honeymoon periods go, Steve Clarke’s start to life as Scotland manager has been the equivalent of a wet weekend in his native Saltcoats.
Certainly, much of the public enthusiasm generated by his appointment as Alex McLeish’s replacement earlier this year has been dampened by a run of results and performances which have starkly underlined the current mediocrity of the national team.
In fairness to Clarke, the four defeats suffered on his watch at home and away to Belgium and Russia in a lamentable Euro 2020 Group I qualifying campaign could have been regarded as probable outcomes no matter who was in charge.
But the former Kilmarnock manager’s failure so far to at least replicate the organisation, resilience and tactical discipline which made his Rugby Park tenure so impressive is a cause for concern.
So while Saturday’s match against Cyprus in Nicosia and Tuesday’s Hampden meeting with Kazakhstan have no material impact on Scotland’s hopes of making it to next summer’s Euro 2020 finals, they are far from without significance for Clarke. The onus is on the squad he has assembled, albeit handicapped by so many high profile withdrawals, to find some positivity and momentum to carry into the play-offs in March which will determine whether Scotland are enthusiastic participants or anguished spectators when Euro 2020 comes to Hampden in June.