BEFORE the storm came the calmness of an afternoon on the river.

This was last Saturday when Steve Clarke knew two things. That he could take Kilmarnock into Europe on the Sunday should they beat Rangers and by then he was 90 per cent of becoming the new Scotland manager. It was a lot to take in.

This is not a man who shows emotion, which doesn’t mean to say he doesn’t have any. But when he praises players or criticises sectarian abuse, his expression remains the same. He must be some poker player.

But even he found it all a bit too much.

Clarke is 55 and has spent a life at the high end of football working with some of the biggest names. There’s not much he hasn’t seen, nothing appears to faze him, but even this experienced manager found it all a bit too much.

He compared the inside of his head to a tumble dryer. Too much was going on. And yet he coped firstly with finishing third with Kilmarnock, then superbly dealt with his first round of media duties at Hampden after it was confirmed what Scotland supporters had guessed, and hoped, that the best manager in the country for the last two years was getting the top job.

“It’s probably a little bit emptier now but there are still some things tumbling around,” revealed Clarke about his head. “It’s been a hectic spell. I was very concerned that the Scotland thing was going to overtake the Kilmarnock issue.

“I wanted to finish the season well, I wanted to win the last game and lead the club into Europe. I wanted everything that we got last Sunday. It was really important for me to try and separate that out.

“Believe it or not I managed to get away with a friend for a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon. We did a little bit of fly fishing on a local water just up behind Kilmarnock. Just to try and clear my head. That worked. I caught a few. It just gave me time to clear my head and concentrate on the game against Rangers.

“On Monday I was waiting on Billy (Bowie, Kilmarnock owner) and Ian (Maxwell, SFA chief executive) sorting out the compensation. I was finalising the contract details too, so it’s been a busy time. I’ve got to be honest I felt tired after all of it but I have a lot of work to do in the next couple of weeks.

“Normally when you get to this stage of the season it’s the sun lounger, flip flops and relax a little bit.

“But I can’t now relax until the 12th of June. So plenty of coffee, plenty of food to keep my energy up and I will attack both games with relish. I’ve got to be honest, I’m really excited. You can never tell with me but I’m excited to meet the players and get on with the challenge ahead.”

Clarke’s dad, Eddie, is similar in that his happy face isn’t too dissimilar from his devastated look.

This is a football family and that junior has got the Scotland job is a source of price, and some bemusement about what he can actually do.

Clarke said: “My dad has even less emotion than me! He doesn’t show it very much but I know he is chuffed to bits. I sat down with him and told him I was going to take the Scotland job and he said he was really happy for me.

“He asked if I was happy and what I was going to do now. I told him I needed to go and pick a squad and he said ‘do you get to pick the squad?!’ In days gone by it would be done by the selection committee. So helps chuffed that I get to pick the players.

“My dad says about modern football ‘all they do is pass it sideways and backwards’.”

Kilmarnock didn’t do that. They played positive football under Clarke, scored goals, created chances and passed the ball along the ground.

International football is, of course, a different animal. Defending is key, especially against Belgium, as is players knowing what their job is, which hasn’t always been the case with Scotland in recent and not so recent years.

“They will be committed,” said Clarke in answer to the question of how his team is going to play. “They will be working hard to win every game. But until I get the players on-board, it’s going to be difficult to say.

“It’s not quite as simple as saying we will train or work the way we did at Kilmarnock. Until you get the players in camp and get a feel for them you don’t know.

“And the opposition will determine the way we play. If you are playing at home to Cyprus you have to be on the front foot. You have to get the crowd onside, get at them, create chances and keep the back door closed so you don’t lose any silly goals when you are on top in a game.

“There is a completely different model that you would have for Belgium away. If you go there and get on the front foot and go kamikaze you could find yourself out of the game after ten or 15 minutes. We will be flexible and hopefully competitive in every single game we play.”

And then there are call-offs. For a man who won six caps, far too few for a player of his ability, Clarke will not be as understanding as some of his predecessors about those who discover a niggle before any Scotland meet-up.

Call-offs are part of being the Scotland manager, always has been, but the current one, you can tell, won’t lose sleep over a player who picks and chooses when they want to play for the country.

Clarke said: “As and when it crops up, we’ll just deal with it. It’s important not to get hung up on the notion that everyone who has an injury is trying to dodge it. What I want is players who are 100 per cent committed. If you only want to commit to the end of the Euro 2020 campaign, fine, but commit for that spell.

“And then every time a squad’s announced, say ‘I want to be in that squad’. Then play with your club at the best level you can to make sure you get that selection. Then hopefully the hardest part of my job will be leaving two or three out who deserve to be there and I can't find room for them.”

Clarke said all the right things. He was an already impressive man who raised his own levels on his first day in his new job. Nothing is guaranteed, this is Scotland so disaster is always lurking, and yet it feels like the SFA have got the right man in.

That strange feeling you have is called hope.