PAUL McStay was there when Steve Clarke silenced 85,000 mad Mexican fans in the fabled Azteca Stadium in 1983 with a goal that sent Scotland through to the quarter-final of the World Youth Championship, writes Matthew Lindsay.

Now he believes his old team-mate is the perfect man to get the Tartan Army cheering once again and end a wait to reach a major tournament finals that stretches back to France ’98.

But the Celtic and Scotland great has warned it is unrealistic to expect the national team to

make it through to Euro 2020 through qualifying and urged their new manager to concentrate on the play-off matches next season.

Scotland made a bitterly disappointing start to their Group I campaign when they were thrashed 3-0 by minnows Kazakhstan in Nursultan in March – a defeat that ultimately led to the sacking of Alex McLeish.


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Clarke, the former Newcastle United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Aston Villa assistant and West Brom, Reading and Kilmarnock manager, admitted his first objective was for his side to finish in the top two in their section.

But McStay, inset, the 76-time capped midfielder who played alongside Clarke in the senior side as well, believes that is an ambitious target.

“Steve is a great appointment,” he said. “His C.V. is fantastic when you look at the people he worked with starting out – Bobby Robson, Ruud Gullit, Jose Mourinho, Kenny Dalglish – and then his own record as a manager.

“Kilmarnock were struggling when he took over, but he’s made them a force to be reckoned with.

“All in all, I’m very happy he’s got the Scotland job.”

Scotland will need to spring a surprise against the top two seeds in their group – World Cup semi-finalists Belgium or Russia – in order to recover from their Kazakhstan loss and progress to the finals automatically.

McStay added: “We’re trying to progress to the finals of major tournaments and to do that we’ll need to get results against the bigger countries in our group and Steve has the organisational skills to achieve that.


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“We knew then that we needed to beat the big teams because we’d have struggled otherwise. So, just by looking at the way he set his players up against Celtic, he has the tactical knowledge necessary to get those results.

“Against the bigger nations we’ll need to make ourselves harder to beat and try to hit them on the break and get the goal which might earn you a draw or a win.

“You’ve got to be optimistic and hope Stevie can turn things round quickly, but the reality is that it’s going to take time. The great thing is that we have this play-off to look forward to so that gives him the chance to use these qualifying ties to put his signature on the team.

“No-one is looking for miracles right away so he can maybe use these games with one eye on the play-offs.”

Clarke, the former St Mirren and Chelsea right back, only won six caps for his country, but McStay always enjoyed playing alongside him.

“He was an excellent player,” he said. “We had a good night in the Azteca once in the Under-19 World Cup in 1983. There were nearly 100,000 there. We had a lot of good times.

“There were a lot of good players in that team. You always think somebody like that should have more caps. But Scottish football was quite strong in those days.

“I just want success for the country. For the younger generation to follow the team to a big tournament would be fantastic. I am optimistic.”

Paul McStay was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup