FEW can deliver a line in diplomatic understatement quite like Walter Smith. “It’s not been an easy time for the national team,” he offers up in typical deadpan style, a view akin to suggesting that Hillary Clinton has been a wee bit down on her luck of late.

Smith’s views on Scotland, though, are always worthy of consideration given he has been through it all himself. In hindsight, his two years in charge - from December 2004 to January 2007 – can probably be considered a recent high-water mark. Scotland moved up 70 places on his watch, and were in good shape to qualify for Euro 2008 when he left to return to Rangers. They eventually fell short but have not come any closer to making it since.

Smith jumped voluntarily rather than being pushed but perhaps he is talking from personal experience when he suggests there is little to be gained from changing manager midway through a campaign.

Read more: Smith: Second place a "realistic expectation" for Rangers

Pressure is mounting on Gordon Strachan to depart following a dismal start to the World Cup qualifying group but with the manager seemingly intent on hanging on, Smith is not among those calling on the Scottish Football Association to begin the process of looking for Strachan’s replacement.

“I still think that Gordon is the best man to handle things until the end of the campaign,” said Smith. “He is the person who’ll have the best idea how to transform our fortunes. Any new manager coming in would want to experiment and, four games in, I don’t think that would be the best thing. Gordon is the best man to carry it on.

“I don’t think it makes any sense to change the manager. We had some terrific performances in the Euro 2016 qualifiers and, while we haven’t reached that level again yet, Gordon remains the natural choice to fix that. With the national team, you don’t get a regular view of how your players are doing as a unit – they just come to you every few months and then they play. It might Gordon a little bit of time to work out how he changes things but I don’t see any point in bringing someone else in instead of him.”

Read more: Smith: Second place a "realistic expectation" for Rangers

Scotland can arithmetically still finish second in the group, although even that might not be enough to earn a place in the play-offs. Smith did his best to remain optimistic.

“When you look at the section, England are the favourites after taking 10 points from four games,” he added. “The hope was that Scotland would have been up there in second place but we find ourselves four points off that at the moment and that means we’re under pressure to pick up points in the remainder of the campaign. I think there’s still a possibility that they can finish second in the group, even though they haven’t played as well in this campaign as they did at the start of the last one. But if they can recapture that form of two years ago then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be the runners-up.

“That’s the task in hand, to turn things round. Looking at it realistically, we were never going to finish above England but the opportunity is still there to be second, even though that wouldn’t guarantee a play-off.”

One of Strachan’s main gripes has been that he must work with a group of players who are either with clubs in the English second tier or not playing at all. Smith can sympathise.

“That is where we are as a country. That aspect is not down to the team manager. That is where we are at the present moment. It is one of the reasons I would look at if you are thinking about why they have not played as well this year. Most of them were playing for their teams this time last year, this time they are not.

Read more: Smith: Second place a "realistic expectation" for Rangers

“It gives Gordon an awkward circumstance in terms of having to make an assessment about who to play and what they can do. It is maybe just symptomatic of what is happening to our country at the moment. Gordon knows the players but it is a hell of decision to make when you are not able to look at a player playing for his team every week, yet you still feel he is the best man to play for the country.

“As I said, in the last campaign, we didn’t qualify but we had some good performances. In the second half of the campaign, we need to try and find some better performances again. Are we going to get them? Gordon will want to try and get them and I think he should be allowed the opportunity to do so.”

- Walter Smith (second right) was at Torrance Park Golf Club to officially open their new state-of-the-art £1.5m clubhouse, part of a wider residential development. Full details at www.torranceparkgolf.co.uk