His appointment as assistant manager of the national team has prompted a sharp appraisal of a coaching career undercut by unsuccessful spells in charge of Aberdeen and Bristol Rovers, with Hampden now becoming the centre of its rehabilitation. Yesterday McGhee faced questions about his record but his most cogent answers will be delivered by players and the fruits of his labour harvested first by Gordon Strachan.
He has withdrawn to the role of assistant having foundered as a manager at his last two club jobs. The dark clouds that formed over Pittodrie during his tenure two seasons ago and at Rovers before he was sacked last month have blocked out the successes he enjoyed at Motherwell; his time in charge at Fir Park bringing an approach from Hearts and a link to the national team job in 2007. Back then it would have jarred to suggest that the dug out at Hampden would come to offer McGhee shelter rather than opportunity.
That sentiment is perhaps best understood by David Clarkson, a striker who has worked under the 55-year-old at both Motherwell and Rovers. Clarkson is fully aware what the Scotland squad can expect when they meet up for international duty then, while his two caps have also given him an insight into the demands that will be placed on his former manager.
"He just gives you confidence in yourself to go and play and express yourself," said Clarkson, who won his last cap in a friendly against Argentina in 2008. "He puts pressure on you to go and win games but he tries to keep everybody happy, he tries to keep you all together.
"He doesn't hold you back if you want to go and take players on. He lets you play without restrictions. I think players appreciate that, players want to be allowed to the freedom to express themselves."
The striker can be used as a working example since his first cap was earned while excelling under McGhee at Motherwell. His career has stalled since moving south but the achievements fostered under McGhee continue to offer hope of reviving his best form. "It's good to look back and hopefully that can spur me on to try and get back enjoying football," he said.