FITTINGLY, considering one of his claims to fame is developing the GB relay programme which harvested one gold, two silvers and a bronze at last year’s World Championships in London, Stephen Maguire has picked up the baton as head of performance at scottishathletics and is running with it. The Northern Irishman is a week or so into his second stint at the organisation he served with distinction between 2012 and Glasgow 2014, seven days of travelling the country to re-introduce himself to elite or aspiring athletes and the coaches they work with to find out how best he can support them. But his focus isn’t just the very top end; Maguire is as interested in improving the totality of a young athlete’s existence from the first day they set foot in an athletics club.

While he was never really that far away, let’s just say the landscape north of the border has changed a little since Maguire left for Loughborough four years ago, to be replaced by Rodger Harkins. Take Laura Muir, for example, even if he has yet to touch base with the Perthshire phenomenon and her coach Andy Young since his return.

When Maguire left in 2014, Muir was in the midst of a year which would see her stumble at her home Commonwealth Games then finish sixth in her heat at the European Championships. Fast forward four years and here she is; not only an assured outdoor European gold medallist, and double indoor world medallist, but a fully qualified vet into the bargain. Wisely skipping the Commonwealth Games to finish those studies has left the way clear for her to spearhead the Scottish challenge at the European Indoors in this very arena in March, before attempting to consolidate her current position as the world’s best 1500m runner at both September’s World Championships in Doha and eventually the Tokyo Olympics.

When Maguire speaks of the journey he doesn’t mean the car ride along the M8 he encountered from his base in Edinburgh yesterday. He means that everyone has a different pathway to follow, and careers don’t always trace a smooth trajectory. That goes for Muir as much as anyone; the next phase of whose personal development is simply to beat all of them, all of the time.

“Andy Young, in fairness to him, always had a very clear idea of where Laura was going,” said Maguire. “It was just understanding that vision and trying to support as well as we could. Now, she is truly world class - she turns up to a competition and if she doesn’t get on a podium, and is contending to win it, then there is something wrong. You could always see the talent, you were aware of it. But even in those early days and since I have come back, just from chatting to some of the coaches, you see how hard the pathway sometimes is.

“There is a journey for everyone and she is still on her journey. That journey now is not just to be a podium athlete every time, it is to win every time. The athletes she is up against are the best in history so it is incredibly hard to do. The other athletes we know, [Genzebe] Dibaba, the Kenyans, the US athletes, they all look at Laura now as top of the tree so there is a target on her back. But her next journey is to beat them all, all the time.”

If Maguire was around at the beginnings of this Scottish surge, its pace has only increased in his absence. Not only does Muir have a stellar supporting cast following behind her, her generation can serve as role models for a younger generation including training partners Jemma Reekie and Sol Sweeney. The Northern Irishman was too pre-occupied with things in the UK system to travel to the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games, but as a self-confessed athletics nerd he didn’t miss a beat.

Eilidh Doyle, already Scotland’s most decorated athlete and set to join the scottishathletics board this week, racked up three more medals in 2018. Jake Wightman – the erstwhile leader of middle-distance stars which also includes Chris O’Hare, Josh Kerr and Neil Gourley - grabbed two, Eilish McColgan one. Two of Scotland’s leading men over long distance, Callum Hawkins and Andrew Butchart, will fancy their chances at the worlds in 2019 after frustrating 2018s for varying reasons. And there are others besides.

“The biggest target now is Tokyo, the Olympic games,” said Maguire. “That is for them all. You could win a World Championship in Doha but if you don’t get a medal in Tokyo they will see it as a failure. People need to figure out where that [the European indoors in Glasgow] fits into their preparation but I would be very surprised, being Scottish athletes, if they didn’t want to compete in it. We are lucky we have the talent bank in Scottish athletics that we have now and that is testament to the work done by clubs, athletes and coaches not just in the last four years, but eight years and 12 years. It just doesn’t happen by accident.”