THE Euro 2016 qualifier that Scotland played against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin last year was a bitter disappointment for everyone involved.

But for Barry Bannan, the midfielder who failed to even make the match day squad, events in the Aviva Stadium that June afternoon were that bit more excruciating.

Indeed, making himself unavailable for selection even crossed his mind fleetingly as he sat dejectedly in the stands and watched Gordon Strachan’s team grind out a 1-1 draw with Martin O’Neill’s side.

Read more: Barry Bannan: Scotland out to silence their critics after Euro 2016 failure and reach Russia 2018

“That game was probably the hardest one for me to take in my Scotland career,” said Bannan. “You train all week and go over there and end up not stripped. It was myself and Johnny Russell who missed out.

“That was a massive game. But that’s when you have to become a team player. If you are down and the boys see that then it can have an effect on them as well. I basically turned into a supporter for that game.

“It (retiring from international football) does come into your mind sometimes when you come away and you don’t play and are in the stand. But I don’t think I would ever really do it as I don’t think my family would allow me to do it.

Read more: Barry Bannan: Scotland out to silence their critics after Euro 2016 failure and reach Russia 2018

“When you are at your lowest it is hard not to think like that, but that’s when people around you come into play and help you.”

Just as well they did. Bannan, who enjoyed an excellent game in the opening Russia 2018 qualifier against Malta away last month, now has a chance to establish himself as a Scotland regular after Scott Brown’s decision to concentrate solely on playing club football.

There is competition for a central midfield berth alongside captain Darren Fletcher in the national team in the Group F match with Lithuania at Hampden tomorrow evening. James McArthur is fit again and James Morrison has done well there in the past. Even John McGinn is pushing hard for inclusion.

However, the 26-year-old, who made his first competitive appearance for his country in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Lithuania at Hampden five years ago, believes he has served his time and is ready to make a place his own.

“My Scotland career has been a bit up and down,” he said. “Obviously, there have been times when I’ve played three or four games and then been out of the team for a while. It’s been up and down, up and down.

“I’ve had a lot of downs so I have learned how to deal with them. I think I deal with them pretty well. But hopefully I can kick on into the last part of my career. I’m now at a certain age and am playing every week at club level. The aim is to get settled into the Scotland team as a regular starter.

“But I feel in good shape. I’m looking forward to these games now. I was pleased to be back out there playing from the start against Malta in the last game. That was a big confidence boost for me and I took that onto the pitch.

“Also, at club level, I’ve been playing in a settled team for more than a year now which has been great for me as well. So I was full of confidence going into the game against Malta and I think I managed to make that show.”

Featuring on a weekly basis with Sheffield Wednesday in the Skybet Championship has helped Bannan to attain peak form. His five year stay at Aston Villa was interrupted by loan spells at Derby County, Blackpool and Leeds United. He was also farmed out to Bolton Wanderers during his two season stint at Queens Park Rangers.

But since moving to Hillsborough last year he has flourished. He helped the Owls reach the play-off final at Wembley last season and was named in the Championship PFA Team of the Year. Given that he saw it, after playing for six clubs in eight seasons, as his last opportunity to make it in England, he has been delighted with how things have gone.

“I saw it as my last chance of making a name for myself down there and it’s been the best move I’ve ever made,” he said. “It’s probably been the best time I’ve had in football.

“But I had to take a step backwards to build my career again and I think the 18 months I’ve been there has been really, really good. The step back has done me the world of good.”

Bannan is not the only member of the Scotland set-up who has dropped down to the Championship from the Premiership. Ikechi Anya, Steven Fletcher and Matt Ritchie have all done the same. In addition, Christophe Berra, Gordon Greer, Grant Hanley, Chris and Russell Martin and Steven Naismith are all plying their trade in the second tier down south.

Read more: Barry Bannan: Scotland out to silence their critics after Euro 2016 failure and reach Russia 2018

Bannan defended the standard of what is the seventh richest league in European football and stressed that having players involved in it on a weekly basis will help Scotland massively in their bid to reach the next World Cup.

“I think for the national team, having players willing to go backwards to get regular games is going to help massively,” he said. “You really need to be coming to international squads fit and at the top of your game.

“If you look at the Welsh boys or the Northern Irish boys a lot of them play in the Championship and they’ve done well at the last Euros."