FIRST impressions are everything.

On that front, Steve Clarke can already celebrate his Scotland reign as quite the success; it’s difficult to recount such a universally acclaimed appointment by the SFA.

And when it comes to a popular call, it is tough to underestimate just what that kind of welcome does for a manager at the start of a new regime. Unlike Alex McLeish who was appointed to mumblings of an old pals’ act and suspicion that is was doomed from the start, Clarke has all the momentum at his back.

Like Brendan Rodgers on the day he was paraded at Celtic Park to an audience of 13,000, there is already the feeling of people willing him to do well rather than to stand in the wings, arms folded and scoff on an “I-told-you” front.

But still. It is one thing to make an impression off the park and another to do it on it. This is when it gets a little more difficult.

Cyprus tonight on paper is exactly the kind of game that has doomed Scotland in the past. There was a bravery from Clarke at his first press conference when he spoke about his wish to take four points from these two games, Cyprus this evening and Belgium on Tuesday night.

And for all that there has been a surge of genuine optimism and excitement towards an appointment that was welcomed in all quarters, it will count for very little if the performances are not significantly different from the lethargy that has been witnessed over the last 18 months.

Yet if there is cause for encouragement it is not just in Clarke’s straight delivery. Taking charge of Scotland will require a gift for organisation, something that underpinned Clarke’s time at Kilmarnock.

There is an obvious inclination

to lean towards those recent

success stories that came out of Rugby park during Clarke’s tenure – the club’s highest points tally this term since 1966 and the securing

of European football being particularly notable – but the alchemy he worked in Ayrshire is not entirely new.

There was success at West Brom, too: in the 2012-13 season, the Premiership side finished eighth in Europe’s most lucrative league, the highest place they have

ever reached in the club’s history.

It is Clarke’s ability to make a team greater than the sum of their parts that will now come to the fore. The spine of the national side should auger well for what lies ahead; Andy Robertson has just become the first Scotland player since Paul Lambert to play in a winning side in a Champions League final (Darren Fletcher was an unused substitute in 2008 when Manchester United triumphed) and the fullback can authentically be labelled as world-class.

Fitting both Robertson and Tierney in together might be one of the early thought processes for Clarke, albeit that the Celtic player needs to come through surgery first.

John McGinn has had a stellar first season in England and will be another Scot who is playing his football in the Premier League next season. Ryan Fraser is currently holding Arsenal’s attention after an impressive season at Bournemouth and it is easy to forget that when Scotland were qualifying for tournaments on a regular basis, there were a nucleus of players featuring in the English top flight.

The likes of Ryan Christie, James Forrest and Callum McGregor have all shone for Celtic this term with their energy, creativity and eyes for

a goal.

The portents for the new manager look good. One might have had cause to wonder if Robertson was still nursing the kind of hangover that could fell a horse given what he experienced last weekend. Hampden for a European qualifier against Cyprus is not quite the same as the Champions League final but it says much about the Liverpool player that after an intense season he was there leading the line at training with not a glimpse of paracetamol and Irn-Bru in sight.

For a manager who won just 6 Scotland caps, such commitment would have been warmly welcomed. The same will be expected from every member now who reports for duty as Clarke begins the task of trying to maintain the recent excitement around the national team.

It matters little of how the results come. In a perfect world Scotland would get there with a certain style but at the minute, after a barren two decade spell of being on the outside looking in it is all about seeing tangible improvements.

And the country was unanimous when it came to agreement about the right man to do just that.

All eyes will be on Hampden tonight.