ALEX McLeish fought his way through the Beast from the East earlier this month on a quest that few people in football gave him a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding in – persuading Scott McTominay to represent Scotland.

The Manchester United midfielder had been featuring regularly for Jose Mourinho’s side in both the Premier League and Champions League and had attracted the interest of his England counterpart Gareth Southgate as a result.

Yet, the nightmare journey proved to be well worth enduring as McLeish recorded the first major victory of his second stint as national team manager at the end of it.

Read more: Alex McLeish urges Scotland new boys to stake a claim for a regular start in Costa Rica and Hungary friendlies

“I felt very chuffed with myself with that one,” said McLeish yesterday after he had named McTominay in his 27 man squad for the friendlies against Costa Rica at Hampden and Hungary in Budapest at the end of this month.

“I did a lot of travelling that night to get to Manchester. It was a wicked night with all the snow. I was actually very surprised by my first exchange with Scott because he said: ‘I want to play for Scotland’.

“There was no aggression from me. I wasn’t going there to plead with him or try to coerce him into playing for Scotland. I just wanted to ask him the question. I just wanted to look in his eyes and see if he did want to play for Scotland.

“I told him I wanted to pick him for these internationals so do you want to play for Scotland? He said: ‘Yes I want to play for Scotland’.

“I said: ‘Listen, I’m not forcing it down your throat’. But Scott intimated that he definitely wanted to play for Scotland. I told him I’d phone him again next week when he could give me a definitive answer. But the answer was the same.”

McTominay, the Lancashire-born and raised player who qualifies to play for this country through his Helensburgh-born father, has been criticised for his decision, accused of lacking belief in his abilities and given stick from supporters in the stands. “The fans have been giving him some banter saying he chose us because he wants to have his holidays every summer,” said McLeish.

Read more: Alex McLeish urges Scotland new boys to stake a claim for a regular start in Costa Rica and Hungary friendlies

It is, though, a hugely positive start to the Scotland manager’s reign. The defensive midfielder has played ahead of Paul Pogba, who joined United for £89 million last summer, in Mourinhos’s side in recent weeks, including in the Champions League. McLeish is confident he is ready for international football.

“I think he’s got the temperament and mentality and I believe he has the confidence,” he said. “He’s working under the tutorage of Jose Mourinho who is an absolute legend in coaching circles. There is so much he can impart onto Scott.

“And now I believe we can help him to progress also by giving him additional advice. You don’t get a lot of time to coach players on international duty, but we will be able to do that as well.

“He’s not got all the answers. He’s 21. He’s a young guy learning the game and we have to be patient with young guys.

McLeish has also handed Oliver McBurnie, the Swansea City striker who is on loan at Barnsley in the English Championship this season, and is hopeful that he too can be an important player for Scotland going forward.

Read more: Alex McLeish urges Scotland new boys to stake a claim for a regular start in Costa Rica and Hungary friendlies

“I have seen the last three or four Barnsley videos and he looks as if he has got something, has got a character about him,” he said. “He is a guy who wants to play for Scotland and a guy who has the mentality to play for us. He is unfazed by any opponent he comes across.”

McLeish, though, has pleased members of the Tartan Army by naming a healthy smattering of home-based players in his squad for the forthcoming double headers. Ryan Christie and Scott McKenna of Aberdeen, Dylan McGeouch of Hibernian, Jason Cummings and Jamie Murphy of Rangers have all been rewarded for their fine form.

“Thank goodness we waited until the derbies (Hibs v Hearts on Friday and Rangers v Celtic on Sunday) were over,” he said. “It gave me some more thinking time. I went to see players with my own eyes rather than relying on reports and other people’s opinions. I took every bit of information in. I was excited about these guys who are on the list, especially some of the younger lads.”

Meanwhile, McLeish has indicated that Celtic left back Kieran Tierney is likely to feature for Scotland at centre half in future - and will be considered to succeed Scott Brown as captain.

“I thought he did well at centre half and as captain against the Netherlands” he said. “Unless it was an emergency, it is not in my plans to go forward with Tierney as the right back for Scotland.

Read more: Alex McLeish urges Scotland new boys to stake a claim for a regular start in Costa Rica and Hungary friendlies

“I don’t want to talk about systems, but you can see the way Tierney and Robertson fitted in at Pittodrie. That is a good option for us. You want to get your best players in the team and those are two of the best players that the country have produced.”

“As regards the captaincy, I have not decided that yet. I will wait until next week to reveal who the captain for these games will be. But Tierney didn’t do himself any harm with his Pittodrie showing and the leadership that he showed as well.

“The captaincy is a big deal for me. You need a player who everybody respects. I am sure that everybody respects Kieran Tierney. He has got a great name in England as well. But we have got other candidates.”

Elswhere, McLeish has indicated he will not force players to go on Scotland’s summer tour of Peru and Mexico if their clubs are unhappy for them to travel. Aberdeen, Celtic and Rangers are all likely to have Europa League and Champions League qualifiers to play in early July.

“We’re probably going to have to wait until that moment comes but I think we have to have some kind of understanding with certain situations,” he said. “In some cases it will be possible to do and in some cases we will have to use our jurisdiction.

“But we want to have a rapport with the clubs as well. We know certain players have been playing 60-odd games a season and we have to be aware of overload and injuries and getting players when they’re not fresh. The performance team at the SFA will work very closely with the clubs.”