Bernard Gallacher, at 65 looking as bright and youthful as ever, says he is relishing next week at Gleneagles.

This is one man who knows the Ryder Cup inside out, having played in eight of them, been captain thrice, and just about seen it all.

Gallacher knows what is going through the minds of Paul McGinley and Tom Watson, the two opposing captains next week. Having narrowly lost his first two as captain himself - at Kiawah in 1991 and at The Belfry in 1993 - he also knows the pressures to be felt when your reputation is on the line.

"There is more pressure being a captain than being a player - no question," Gallacher told me. "As a player you can be in control of yourself. As a captain you feel for the players, and you get elated for the players. You go through hell, to be honest, being a captain

"It's still a nice job. I think Paul McGinley will have enjoyed the build-up. But the 'nice job' bit stops on the Friday morning of the Ryder Cup matches. You've got to make sure you get it right - the right players playing together, etc. You are playing against the best players in the world, but the European Tour expects you to win, and the country expects you to win. And, all the time, you have to say all the right things. So there is a lot of pressure."

Like McGinley this year with players such as Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Justin Rose, Gallacher had some big guns on his side in the 1990s, though it didn't really ease the strain.

"One trick of being the captain is knowing which player you need to have a quiet word with, and which you just leave to their own devices," he says. "Some players need it and some players don't.

"When I was first captain in 1991 I had guys like Seve and Nick Faldo, and Ian Woosnam was the No.1 in the world. So I had some strong players. But something always happens - a story, a controversy - and you have to handle it, in public, as best you can."

I covered Kiawah Island in 1991, where Gallacher made his captain's bow - it is a never-to-be-forgotten Ryder Cup. Kiawah, with the little man from Bathgate in its midst, was the trigger of real Ryder Cup rowdiness, partisanship, and the rest of it. And the political air back then was hot.

"We landed in the middle of a circus," Gallacher recalls. "Looking at it from the Americans' point of view, they hadn't won the Ryder Cup since 1983, and here they were back on home soil, and they were desperate to win the Ryder Cup.

"It was also just after the Gulf War and there was a very high degree of patriotism or partisanship or 'jingoism'. . . call it what you will. And what happened was, the American spectators got really involved in the matches. There wasn't a dignified silence, for example, if we missed a putt - there was cheering.

"Then, on the Friday morning of the foursomes, the USA suddenly put on army fatigue hats - or at least Corey Pavin did - and that really revved up their spectators. It became like Gulf War 2. So it was very difficult for us.

"The American crowd really wanted to get involved in 1991, and that was the big turning point. That is how the Ryder Cup is these days - look at Brookline in 1999 or Medinah in 2012. The crowds on either side want to get involved and you just have to accept it."

I loved this comment which Gallacher then added in our conversation. "This sort of crowd involvement we get now is not nasty, and maybe it's not so over the top," he said. "It's just sort of not golf."

In recent times, while being as wild and whooping as ever, Ryder Cups have tended to be shorn of their more unacceptable accretions. And Gallacher and Tom Watson - in part - can take some of the credit for that.

"Tom and I got together before 1993 at the Belfry - after '91 at Kiawah - and we decided we had to try to tone things down. After that, I think it got a little more dignified. In one way, you can't blame the crowds. When Paul Azinger won at Valhalla they were cheering, and then when Ben Crenshaw won at Brookline, they were cheering all night, and the TV cameras in America kept rolling to capture it all.

"Medinah in 2012 was probably the best Ryder Cup I've ever been at. To be in America, and to come back from four points down to beat them in singles, amid such a strong, partisan Chicago crowd . . . it was just unbelievable."

Gallacher, clearly, has a huge respect for Watson. It is clear he believes the American team next week at Gleneagles has the best captain it ever could have in the circumstances.

"I've said it all along - I think Tom was a very clever captaincy pick by the PGA of America. If you think about it: they had to pick their captain pretty soon after they lost in Medinah. They've lost seven of the last nine Ryder Cups. And they've lost the last two.

"So what would keep the American interest going? What would sustain American interests coming into Gleneagles and then going back over there to Hazeltine in 2016? The answer to all that is Tom Watson.

"The players respect Tom highly. He thinks the Ryder Cup is important. He thinks it is something we should cherish. So Tom was the right guy. He was the one guy who could rub shoulder to shoulder with Tiger Woods, in terms of majors, in terms of having that authority. I think America choosing Tom Watson as their 2014 Ryder Cup captain was one of the cleverest things I have ever seen in golf."

The last two Ryder Cups have been agonisingly close. Did Gallacher, I wonder, have a hunch as to who will win next week?

"I think it will be a really close match," he said. "But I think having Martin Kaymer, a US Open champion, and Rory McIlroy, our Open champion, in the same dressing-room will be a big help. Also, being at home, and having the strong support that we'll have, might just be enough to get Europe over the line. But I really believe it will be finely balanced.

"The Americans will have a strong team: Bubba, Spieth, Ricky Fowler. I think Tom Watson will mould a really impressive fighting unit, and that his team really will come out fighting. But, saying that, we will have these major champions on our side. I do think this: that any spectator who can come to Gleneagles with an open mind - who comes just to enjoy it - will be able to do just that. I think we're in for a great contest."

Gallacher is also aware of the debate surrounding his nephew, Stephen, being added to the European roster by Paul McGinley. It was a captain's pick, not surprisingly, which he totally backed.

"Stephen is good enough to play in a Ryder cup - no question. He has been playing his socks off this year. He played well at the Masters, and at the Open, and has also been something like 31 in the world.

"I think he is at the peak of his career. Now, in his late 30s, I think he is reaching a more consistent level, and he feels more confident. Stephen now thinks - rightly - that he belongs playing among these elite fields."