DAVID WEIR will tonight join the pantheon of enduring Scotland internationalists. The Everton defender has encountered many a dramatic diversion en route to his 50th international appearance. Even at 36, he is adamant his journey is not yet complete.

As the only surviving member of Scotland's World Cup squad from France '98, the last time the country negotiated its way to a major finals, wisdom has prevented the latest Hall of Fame entrant from aborting ambition in what is his country's fiercest qualification group.

Two World Cup finalists and an unhealthy smattering of developing forces from the east stand between an old international relic and a decade of irrelevance. Yet Weir represents the embodiment of Scotland's new ethos in the understated, yet undeniably effective, era underWalter Smith.

Even in his 37th year, the Premiership and its glittering array of stars holds no fears for the man whose modesty prevents him from indulging in celebration ahead of his international landmark. Instead, he exudes a calm satisfaction. After all, had it not been for the demise of Berti Vogts, Weir's international career would have ended prematurely and bitterly.

Heavy, or more accurately ham-fisted, criticism of Weir and Christian Dailly after Scotland's nightmarish 2-2 draw against the Faroes in Toftir four years ago was met with the exit of one the country's most loyal servants.

The sense of betrayal only subsided after the appointment of Smith, the manager who brought Weir to Goodison and earlier made a failed attempt to lure him to Ibrox.

Sensing the dilution of national pride, the new national manager's first port of call was to the talisman of the Toffeemen. It is wholly appropriate, then, that Weir will share his proudest moment, armband fixed around his bicep, with the managerwho made it possible.

"Walter gave me my chance in the Premiership and brought me back into the international fold and I will always be thankful to him for that, " said Weir upon arrival in Kaunas.

"I never thought I would get to this stage but I am delighted. I haven't thought about it too much but I know there have been some greats inducted, like Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness. It's something I am very proud of and my children can be, too.

"It is also great honour to captain your country. I take the responsibility seriously and it is something I enjoy. I know Barry Ferguson will resume the role when he returns but I will enjoy it while it lasts."

Enjoyment is crucial to Weir's staying power for club and country, especially after suffering the kind of grim adversity that would have broken a weaker-willed character.

He is the elder statesmen at Goodison since the retirement of Nigel Martyn but, like his international career, had to overcome a sustained trauma to earn such distinction.

Out of favour for months owing to a contractual dispute, his failure to accept his slide into anonymity was recognised by David Moyes and rewarded with a second chance. He, and Everton, have never looked back.

Having sampled the grandest stage of all, Weir still harbours hope of guiding Scotland through a perilous group, even if age may deny him a fitting farewell in Austria and Switzerland. Qualification would represent the finest accomplishment in a sterling career spanning 20 years.

Weir said: "It will have been 10 years since the last time if we make it and that is a long time to wait. You realise what you are missing and it would be nice to make up for that disappointment. It would probably be the best ever achievement if we qualified from this group because it includes two World Cup finalists and a quarterfinalist in Ukraine. Georgia and Lithuania are no pushovers, either."

Scotland's new-found harmony does not make that proposition seem so daunting.

"I think we have more balance. Previous teams had stand-out players but when you look through our squad we have strength in depth and we get on well so it generates a good atmosphere, " he said. "They are young enough to have more opportunities but they do not come around that often.

"We cannot go all guns blazing and go straight for it. Lithuania are coming off a good result and will be looking to build on that at home. We will start tight and if the opportunity arises we have to take it but we have to be sensible."

In Weir, the national manager has a trusted lieutenant to implement those directives.