In international weeks, it's easy to be consumed by that all-too-familiar sinking feeling – a mixture of apathy and pessimism that washes over you when you realise that there is no domestic football to occupy the mind.

Perhaps that sensation has been diminished this time around – after all Saturday afternoon's aren't quite what they used to be but the threat of a Stakhanovite stalemate against some former Soviet republic or other footballing backwater, remains the same during international weeks. And so the arrival of Thursday's Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Israel is viewed with trepidation.

Last week I had the good fortune to be given an impromptu historical tour of Scottish football's illustrious past, taking in the site of the first and second Hampden Parks followed by a jaunt up to Mount Florida to see its current incarnation.

It was a sobering reminder that this country was the cradle of the game; that the football the world enjoys today and the tactical variations devised – be it tiki-taka, Total Football or the Hungarian way – came from a single seed that was germinated in Scotland. The codification of the rules originated in Scotland, the best players – the ones English clubs paid handsomely so that they might learn their methods following regular hammerings at club and international level – were Scottish.

The migrants who arrived in Glasgow from the airts and pairts all knew how to play one game because it was that which they – their fathers and grandfathers before them – had played all their lives in church graveyards across the country.

As such, Scotland's claim to be the bedrock of the modern game as we know it, is indisputable.

Yet, there seems to be a reticence here to trumpet a truism. The English have never shied away from staking their claim on football as the invention of Old Albion with its false illusions to the wall game and rugby-style stramashes that involve moving a ball from one part of a town to another. Yet, these are nothing to do with football. What emerged in Scotland was a purer form of the game, one based on skill and ball mastery.

You only need to look around Glasgow to know this. On the wall outside the Hampden Bowling Club you'll find Charles Campbell, a former Queen's Park midfielder whom the history books credit with inventing heading. He is painted on to a mural commemorating Scotland's 5-1 win over England in 1882, a time when such results were commonplace. Also there is Andrew Watson, the first black international footballer, but also a formidable defender of some renown, who had English clubs falling over themselves to sign him.

The early proponents of the game advocated a passing game, full of derring-do. Another player in that side was James Weir, aka The Prince of Dribblers, whose speed from one end of the pitch to the other with ball at feet was of particular note at athletics clubs who staged ball-dribbling races.

Throughout modern football's history their style – and that of their contemporaries – echoed in Scotland teams that followed. For Weir, read Jinky Johnstone or Davie Cooper; Joe Jordan and Alan Gilzean were the latter-day equivalents of Campbell; while Willie Miller and Alex McLeish were more modern replicas of Watson.

Bold names from the past are stamped all over Scotland's footballing history. But the drop off in talent and what has occurred in the years since France 98 has never been properly explained. Some blame the end of a robust school football system, others say it is the fault of increasingly more sedentary childhoods. A further argument is that the trend towards signing more foreign players both in Scotland and in England has diminished opportunities.

Yet, top Premier League clubs now boast more Scottish players than at any time since the 1980s. Is it really credible to assume that all self-belief is sucked from the talents who occupy the national team the minute they pull on the navy jersey?

As a Northern Ireland supporter who enjoyed watching Michael O'Neill's side go through a period of relative success in recent years, I have at times joked at the expense of family, friends and work colleagues as each of Scotland's individual failures seemed to surpass the last in its ineptitude.

O'Neill was once a target for the Scottish Football Association to become manager following the departure of Gordon Strachan, of course. It is worth remembering that he recorded one win in 18 international matches – a run stretching for 33 months – after his appointment as Northern Ireland manager in December 2011. I can't imagine anyone – media, supporters or the association itself – would have given O'Neill that kind of bedding-in period as Scotland's head coach.

Clarke has mentioned that there has been a culture of negativity around his squad and the players have been irritable when questions have been asked of performances. It is a double-edged sword: the players and manager are probably right – they do deserve more time but then the country has waited for 22 years to reach a major finals.

The first stage in attempting to rectify that statistic comes on Thursday when Scotland renew acquaintances with an Israel side who gave them a second-half runaround at Hampden last month. There has been a temptation to look ahead to next month – when Scotland would travel to either Serbia or Norway for a play-off final that would determine their presence in next summer's finals on home soil.

Yet Clarke's side were lucky to escape with a draw against the Israelis at Hampden. This time only a win – however it is achieved – will suffice.

Perhaps, a day trip to first Hampden for Clarke's squad and a quick history lesson might just do the trick.