MONEY or happiness? Most people have had to juggle with that great existentialist conundrum at some point in their working lives. For Stephen O’Donnell that moment arrived in the summer.

Having decided he would be moving on from Kilmarnock, the full-back had the choice of advancing his career in the English lower leagues or finding another Scottish club. The former would command a heftier wage packet, make paying the bills that little bit easier.

The latter would allow him to remain at home with his young family and would also likely improve his chances of featuring more often for Scotland. O’Donnell mulled it over with Steve Clarke, his former Kilmarnock boss, who advised him not to make a decision based on potential national team prospects. Clarke, blunt as ever, could not offer any guarantees on that front.

O’Donnell still stayed, though. Motherwell offered a short-term deal that suited both parties and the 28 year-old signed it. From this vantage point, it looks like the shrewdest decision he has ever made. This afternoon he will line up against Celtic as part of a defence that has kept clean sheets in four of their previous five games.

From there he will head to Serbia for what is Scotland’s biggest match for 13 years, and with a more than decent chance of featuring having started their three previous matches. He can do so feeling pretty happy with the choices he alighted on during an uncertain summer.

"I had conversations with Steve Clarke over the summer and he said not to make any decisions based on Scotland, it needed to be based on what I thought was best for my career,” he revealed. “And the options that come up down south I didn't think were. I found last time I went down that the standard isn’t any better in League One and Two than it is in Scotland.

“The Championship is where most players in the Premiership would like to maybe make the step but the options I had didn't suit me. I wanted to stay at home and they weren't good enough to pull me away from the luxuries of being around your family and friends.

"Money can have a part in it but the money was more than double what I am on here, so it's not the sole motivation but it helps. Motherwell approached me at a great time, when I knew I wanted to get back and I knew at the back of my head that if I wasn't playing football I wouldn't have any chance of being involved with Scotland.

"Scotland is still the highlight of my career, without a doubt, and if you were able to be part of the squad that got through to the Euros 2020 or 2021, whatever you want to call it, it would be incredible.”

O’Donnell is a gregarious, vivacious character but that self-confidence doesn’t stretch to his status as an international player. After 14 caps he could now consider himself an established presence in Clarke’s plans but he can’t bring himself to agree.

"That's a tough question,” he admits. “I don't know. I love being part of it, the dressing-room, the atmosphere, and the manager but for me to feel I am a Scotland player - no disrespect to Motherwell or Kilmarnock - I'd need to be playing at a Celtic or a top Championship side because you look round and you are playing next to a Man United player. What I do know is that I hope I go and I don't let it affect me.

"Maybe I could try and be a little more confident on the pitch but I get stuck in, I shout at them if I think I need to shout at them so I don't think it affects me too much. But to say I am a Scotland player would be a very arrogant statement.”

Being part of the squad that reached Scotland’s first major tournament for 23 years would quickly elevate his standing. The boisterous nature of his personality re-emerges at the idea.

“If I get the goal I will be on the phone to everyone, putting pictures everywhere! I am the best Scotland right back in history. Danny McGrain? Who is that?!

“It would be incredible if you were able to be on the right side of what would be an historic result. Let’s see if we can do it.”

He will see a few of his Celtic team-mates close up at Fir Park this afternoon, hoping they endure another off day following the heavy loss to Sparta Prague.

“You see Callum [McGregor’s] mentality, close up he’s so focused on the game. You think of him as being the ultimate professional. Then you have [Ryan] Christie and his quality is exceptional.

“It’s great to play with them when you’re away with Scotland – but obviously you’re doing your best to stop them when they are opponents like today.”