BARRY Bannan is back. After 18 months in international exile after the agonising 2-2 draw in Slovenia which did for our chances of World Cup qualification, this likeable little midfielder has been recalled to the Scotland squad by his old gaffer Alex McLeish and is in line to win his 28th cap against Kazakhstan on Thursday night.

Not only that, but typically he has already taken it upon himself to administer an ad hoc crash course on the finer points of Scottishness to his Sheffield Wednesday team-mate Liam Palmer. While the English-born right back was a regular at Under-19 and Under-21 level alongside the likes of Stuart Armstrong and James Forrest, he has reached the age of 27 without ever graduating to the full team.

“I think the last time he played was 21s so maybe they forgot he was Scottish because I did!” joked Bannan. “I’m trying to get him on the Irn Bru at the minute. I’m slowly getting into him so I might throw a few words like ‘daftie’ at him and see if he can pick them up

“I’ve got no choice but to look after him. Frank [Reilly, the SFA administrator] has put me in a room with him already! No, I’ll introduce him when we get up there on Sunday. But to be fair to him he did play for the Under-21s quite a lot, so he knows a lot of boys in the squad, guys like Stuart Armstrong. He will be alright. He is delighted obviously that he has been called up because I don’t’ think he really expected it. He has done very well this season and caught the eye so he was over the moon and I think it was a proud moment for him. He’s been really good for us this season, I’m delighted he’s been called up. He’s really athletic and quick, so he’s like a modern-day full-back who likes to get forward and attack. He’s going to be a big, big bonus for the squad, no doubt.”

It always seemed somewhat unfair that Bannan should be the man carrying the can for Scotland’s non-qualification for France, particularly as he suddenly became exhibit A in the lengthy Gordon Strachan-inspired debate about ‘genetics’ which followed in the aftermath. There is an irony perhaps in the fact that he could be one of two diminutive little ball players attempting to pick apart the Kazakh defence alongside John Fleck, his erstwhile Sheffield rival. The two players locked horns in the Steel City derby as recently as a fortnight ago.

“It would be brilliant to share a midfield with him,” said Bannan. “He has done really well since he has been at Sheffield United and they are flying [third in the Championship table]. I have played against them a couple of times and he has really caught the eye. I remember playing with him in the Under-21s, I think he was maybe at Rangers at the time, and you could see he had talent then. He is another one who could maybe open defences up.

“I never really thought about it [how long I had been out] when I saw Fletch and stuff getting called up. I knew they were obviously watching us [at Sheffield Wednesday] so that kind of inspired me. It was just a matter of me trying to impress again and get picked. I never, ever gave up.

“I’m on 27 caps now and every one of them was an amazing feeling. It doesn’t matter if you’ve played loads of time or hardly any times, you still get the same feeling. When I got told the other day I was back in I was over the moon.”

Bannan might be back, but Fletcher is on the outside looking in again – despite scoring on Tuesday night (hours after the squad was named) from another Bannan assist. The midfielder insists that his pal’s non-availability is merely due to treatment scheduled to take place during the international break as a result of the knee operation he underwent in the summer.

“Steven’s been in great form since Steve Bruce came in and been brilliant for us this season. Basically he had a knee op last season and we need to watch him. He’s got a knee problem and his ankle isn’t great, he got an injection to play Tuesday night: it’s an on-going thing that he needs to take care of. He’s come back well and played a lot of games. With the pitch, with it being astro and things like that, I think it’s just a good decision not to risk him in this. I think he will have treatment and stuff going on while we’re over there playing. He is obviously devastated because he did so well in the last trip.”

Bannan knows what Alex McLeish is all about from their time together at Aston Villa, but his time out of the team has seen Callum McGregor being bedded in, and the likes of Armstrong and Scott McTominay mounting a strong claim for first team action too. “I played under him when I was at Villa and I think I was even hitting penalties back then!” said Bannan. “I don’t think I’ll be doing that again any time soon. But Alex showed a lot of faith in me and I did well for him I think.

“I watched the games when I wasn’t in the team and was impressed. They did really well and there were a lot of young boys in the team and I thought they stepped up to the mark. Performances were really good, and it is good for Scottish football. It is a wee bit of a transition period when the gaffer came in but it has paid off and it is starting to look good.”

Conditions, on an artificial pitch in Astana amid -10 degree temperatures, haven’t been to everyone’s liking but Bannan doesn’t mind. “It will be freezing,” he says. “Just like Scotland!”