A FRIENDLY against Estonia at Pittodrie in February is about as low key as it ever gets for a Scotland home game, but Gordon Strachan will not be deceived.
The process of people making up their minds on a Scotland manager begins from the moment he announces his first team. What happens tonight will count for the man recently appointed to lead the country.
What he wants is to re-establish the football team among the nation's sporting success stories. "I think we'd all like to do a bit better," he said. "We'd all like to see Celtic doing well in Europe because it gives us all a lift. It helps when Stephen Gallacher wins at the [Dubai Desert Classic] golf the other day there. But the main thing in Scotland is football. That's the thing we talk about most.
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"Andy Murray has been terrific, Stephen has won this, Paul Lawrie has done that, it's great. But everyone still really wants their national football team to do great. We understand that. If you get beat and it's not a good performance then that's not great. If you get beat and there is a real good performance then it will be fine. But we are animals for wanting to win."
Strachan wants to beat Estonia while thinking about two other teams. His first competitive games in charge are the World Cup double header at home to Wales and away to Serbia on March 22 and 26. "On the feedback that I've had, the teams coming up probably have two different systems to what you are going to see with Estonia. So there is only a certain amount we can do in this game here. The stuff we have done in training so far, until now, is basically how we will set up against the two teams we will come up against soon."
Strachan has enjoyed being back at the coalface of management for the first time since leaving Middlesbrough in October, 2011. He has always derived enormous satisfaction from time spent with his family and away from football, yet being out on a training ground remains a powerful narcotic.
"Even when I wasn't in football I cannot remember a day where I might have been bored. I have things that fill up my life. It will be the same when this is finished. I have this, this, and that to do. That can fill up my time. Some managers feel they spend too much time in the office: that will not happen. I will be in the office when I am needed, because I have got plenty of other things to do personally and professionally. I have loads to do, none of which gets in the way of what I am doing here, trust me. I love what I am doing, but I'm not addicted to it. I'm not obsessed by it.
"But I enjoy the coaching. My life was kind of floating along nicely for two years. I'd wake up in the morning saying 'right what are we doing today'. I'd go see the grandchildren, go to the cinema at night, go and do a game with ITV. Now I find myself last thing at night and first thing in the morning asking 'are we going zonal or man for man marking'? So it has changed completely."