THE foundations for the success Northern Ireland have enjoyed in the past few years may well, as the embattled Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan was at pains to point out this week amid unprecedented criticism of both him and his organisation, have been laid on their end-of-season tour to South America back in 2014.

The players who took on Uruguay in the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo and then Chile in the Estadio Elías Figueroa Brander in Valparaiso drew on those experiences during their remarkable Euro 2016 qualifying campaign and subsequent appearance at the finals in France and then in their valiant if ultimately failed bid to reach Russia 2018.

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But there are a multitude of reasons why Scotland’s sortie to Peru and then Mexico this summer is ill-advised and promises to be every bit as calamitous as the national team’s previous excursions across the Atlantic.

“Lovely,” was how Celtic and Scotland captain Scott Brown, his tongue lodged firmly in his cheek, described the prospect of boarding a 6,000 mile flight at the end of May to play in two meaningless friendly matches at the end of an already long and draining season. Little wonder.

Far too much is being asked of our leading players. Brown and many of his Celtic team mates, and five of them have featured alongside him in the Scotland starting line-up in the past, have to play domestic, European and international matches with little or no let-up during the course of a campaign. The excessive demands on them take a heavy toll on both their form and fitness.

The requirements of those Northern Irish players who took part in that summer tour four years ago were nowhere near as great as those on their Scotland counterparts now. Not even former Rangers midfielder Steve Davis, who plays for Barlcays Premier League club Southampton, had such a punishing schedule.

Indeed, of the 18 players who were involved in the 1-0 loss to Uruguay and the 2-0 defeat to Chile back in 2014 only one – Niall McGinn of Aberdeen – had to play in a European qualifier a month later. It was over two months before the rest of them played another competitive fixture.

But Stuart Armstrong, Brown, Ryan Christie, James Forrest, Craig Gordon, Leigh Griffiths, Callum McGregor and Kieran Tierney will, should Brendan Rodgers’s charges retain the Ladbrokes Premiership, be required to return to pre-season training less than a fortnight after the game against Mexico on June 2 to prepare for their opening Champions League qualifier in mid-July.

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The Aberdeen and Rangers contingents in the Scotland squad, and Graham Dorrans, Ryan Jack, Gary Mackay-Steven, Jamie Murphy, Mark Reynolds and Graeme Shinnie could all potentially be involved, will be in the same predicament with games in the preliminary rounds of the Europa League to prepare for.

They could all, of course, not go. Rodgers is certainly set to write to the SFA asking for his weary players to be excused. But the new Scotland manager, presuming an appointment has been made by then, would have to effectively take a development squad packed full of uncapped and inexperienced kids to face two countries preparing for their imminent appearances in the World Cup finals.

Perhaps some of those called up will prosper as a result and become viable options during the inaugural Nations League and Euro 2020 qualifiers. But the chances of them being heavily beaten, humiliated even, are high. It could be a very damaging start for Gordon Strachan’s successor indeed. The FIFA world ranking could also be affected.

Scotland’s experiences in the World Cup in Argentina in 1978, when Peru beat them 3-1, still send a shiver down the spines of members of the Tartan Army old enough to remember. Their involvement in the World Cup in Mexico in 1986, when they were kicked out of the competition by a vicious Uruguay side, was not a great deal better.

The SFA will doubtless bank sizeable cheques from their hosts for helping them prepare for Russia 2018, something which is welcome by a governing body which is not exactly flush after two decades of failure, but these games promise to be just as problematic and painful as previous visits to South and North America.