FIVE years ago, Lana Clelland was facing another long day. As usual, she had risen at 5am to fit in a gym session before heading to her 9 to 5 administration job.

After hours hunched over a desk, she would jump in the car to spend two hours training with her football team. She wouldn’t get home until late, at which point she would hit the reset button ready to do it all again.

The journey Clelland has been on since then is one so remarkable, it would seem far-fetched as the script of a rousing, sugar-coated Hollywood sports epic.

She has moved to Italy, won the Serie A Golden Boot, scored a Champions League brace and helped Scotland reach their first World Cup. The daily grind is well and truly a thing of the past.

The Fiorentina striker’s spectacular ascent makes you wonder what she might achieve over the next five years, but the 25-year-old from Perth has kept her feet firmly on the ground and won’t forget the sacrifices she made to reach this point.

“It was very hard, but most of us players have come through that so maybe we have the determination to do better,” she said. “There are still girls doing that just now in Scotland. It’s tough. Now you can understand why I’ve come to Italy!

“Growing up as a kid so many people put you off, saying you can’t play football, can’t do this or that. To now say that we’re going to a World Cup is just incredible. I can’t even put it into words.”

Speaking in the bowels of Fiorentina’s iconic Stadio Artemio Franchi, a grinning Clelland won’t divulge any details of the celebrations that followed the win over Albania that secured the Scotland’s first successful World Cup qualification campaign, but it was a momentous achievement for Shelley Kerr’s side and one which is likely to boost the already growing popularity of the women’s game in Scotland, with the number of registered players in the country having doubled over the last five years.

There is still a way to go, with just a handful of players getting paid for their efforts on the international stage and Glasgow City’s Jo Love even having to use her annual leave from work to represent her country.

However, the legacy of this team’s accomplishment is already evident as the Scottish government has pledged around £80,000 of funding to allow Scotland’s non-professional players to train full-time from January 2019 up until the tournament in France kicks off.

Clelland believes the struggles she and her team-mates have faced to reach this point has instilled them with a determination that has been key to the achievement that will make the path of aspiring female footballers less treacherous.

“If you go back to when I was younger, I had to play boys' football because there were no girls teams,” she said. “When I got to a certain age I had to travel an hour or two to find a women’s team. So now seeing there are young girls’ academies starting from under-sixes or under-eights, that travels up. If you look at how much we’ve grown in 10 years, can you imagine how much we’re going to grow in the next 10?

“When we were young there weren’t so many women role models as athletes, never mind footballers. So now to be told that you’re a role model for these young kids coming through is incredible.

“Most of us have come from the times when you had to work and then go to training at night. We know what it’s like to go from not being able to play full time to playing full time, and we know what it means to give everything that you’ve got to go out and improve.

“I think that’s shown over the last five to 10 years in the national team, how much we’ve improved and how much we can compete with these big teams in the world.”

Clelland gleams with pride when talking about the national team and international duty also provides her with the rare opportunity of returning home, something she hasn’t had much time for since packing her bags for Italy four years ago.

The opportunity to join Bari arose after the striker returned from a long-term injury and she jumped at the chance to test herself on the peninsula. She now speaks the language fluently and is fully adjusted to the Italian lifestyle, having arrived at Fiorentina this summer following three successful seasons with Tavagnacco.

Her Italian adventure hasn’t gone unnoticed, with former Celtic playmaker Liam Henderson getting in touch in January to seek her advice after moving to Bari, and looking back on making the jump now there is no doubt she feels the initial obstacles were worth hurdling.

“I thought if I like it I’ll stay, if I don’t it’s a great experience and I’ve learned a different part of the footballing culture,” she said. “Obviously four years later I’m still in Italy, so it went well.

“It was definitely a learning experience, it was terrifying. I’d moved away from home quite young anyway so had always lived by myself. In that sense it wasn’t hard, but just being in a different country and not understanding the language was.

“I was lucky enough to have a few other foreigners in the [Bari] team, so the ones I lived with spoke English. In that way it made the transition off the pitch easier, but on the pitch football is football, so I loved that aspect no matter the language - that was the easy part.

“I feel like I’ve learned so much about the game that I wouldn’t have learned in Scotland because we’ve got a certain style of play. Technically and tactically I’ve learned so much more from coming out here.

“[In Scotland] it’s a physical game. I feel like it’s a lot more direct in Scotland whereas in Italy there are puzzles on the pitch you have to figure out. Tactically I’ve improved so much.”

Clelland joined exalted company when she was crowned Serie A top scorer in 2016/17, becoming just the fourth non-Italian player to achieve the feat – but the second Scot.

The first was Rose Reilly, a legendary figure in the Italian women’s game who played for both Scotland and Italy on the international stage as well as winning eight league titles while representing 10 different clubs in the country and playing until the age of 40.

“I wasn’t aware of her at all,” admitted Clelland. “When I went to Bari there was a journalist there whose dad had interviewed Rose and he told me all about her.

“From there I wanted to know more and find out more. I got in contact with certain people in Scotland who had played with her and knew her and found out her story there. It’s an incredible story, I don’t know why more people in Scotland don’t know it because it’s so inspiring.

“People have already put me on the same path as her so to be able to aspire to the great things that she achieved is incredible.”

You wouldn’t put it past her. In September, she fulfilled her childhood dream of playing in the Champions League, scoring both goals in a 2-0 second leg win over Fortuna Hjorring to set up a last 16 tie against Scotland team-mate Erin Cuthbert’s Chelsea this month.

It’s a far cry from the daily grind, and just the latest entry in an inspiring tale that has plenty of chapters yet to be written.