Paul Devlin speaks with a hint of mischief and such a thick Brummie accent that if he were to suddenly announce his impending cameo role in an episode of Peaky Blinders you might just check the Radio Times to ensure he isn't pulling your leg.

He's lying on a hospital bed as we chat by mobile phone, having just had a cortisone injection in his hip.

“I thought it was just going to be a small needle but when the doctor took it out I thought he was trying to harpoon Moby Dick,” he deadpans.

The hip injury is collateral damage sustained during a 22-year career that took in spells at Stafford Rangers, Notts County, Birmingham City, Sheffield United, Watford, Walsall, 10 Scotland games, and a slew of non-league clubs before the terrier-like winger retired in 2012, aged 40.

It's little wonder Devlin has been told he needs a new joint but he's staving off the moment for a while yet. Eight years on from his retirement, Devlin is still playing parks' football with his pals and until recently turned out for a veterans' team in Birmingham with ex-City team-mate Lee Carsley and two former Aston Villa players, Lee Hendrie and Darren Byfield.

“It must have been the only over-35s team in Britain with a Scotland, England and Ireland international turning out for them on a Sunday morning,” he jokes. “To be fair, the veterans league in Birmingham is quite a good standard. Stan Petrov has got a team in it and quite a few of the local lads still play there.”

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And of the hip, he adds: “I'm only 48 and it's just down to the wear and tear of playing. It's when, not if. The longer you can delay it the better.”

Those who have tried to erase the Berti Vogts' era as Scotland manager from their memory banks, may not recall Devlin, a rapid winger with a penchant for tough-tackling and an eye for goal. He arrived late on the international scene, earning his first Scotland cap at the age of 30. His was a short stint in the navy blue jersey: Devlin's appearances were crammed into a spell spanning October 2002 to September 2003, having scored the goal that secured Birmingham's promotion to England's Premier League in May 2002 and his own legendary status at the club he supported as a boy. Suddenly, he was in demand despite a rumour that did the rounds at the time that Vogts had never seen him play.

“I heard that but I don't know how true it was,” says Devlin, who racked up more than 500 senior games and over 100 goals. “I just remember I was in the car and the phone went and it was Berti. I jumped at the chance. It's funny because I remember the day that swung it. We were playing Newcastle at St Andrews and I had played well and my dad was sitting behind the Scotland scout who was watching the game. He knew that there was a call up on the cards before anyone. He could hear the scout on the phone giving me a glowing report. In a ground that holds 28,000 that was remarkable really.”

“The big catalyst was us getting promoted. I wasn't playing any better than I had for the previous 10 years, but the fact I was doing it at the top level just gave me the final push to get that call up. There had been talk of me being called up for about seven or eight years. I spoke to Mick McCarthy the day he announced his first Republic of Ireland squad [in 1996] because he wanted me in it but FIFA had just changed the grandparent rules. If it had been 12 months before I would have got my first cap at 23 for Ireland. Instead I was 30 [for Scotland].”

He made his debut in a 3-1 friendly win over Canada and had a hand in second-half goals for Steven Thompson and Stevie Crawford but it was a Euro 2004 qualifier against Germany that sticks out most. Kenny Miller gave Scotland the lead in the first half only for Fredi Bobic to wipe it out after the break.

“The Germany manager at the time was Rudi Voeller, he said a couple of nice things about me before the game about me being a potential danger. That was nice, when you have got someone at that level saying 'Devlin's pace and directness might be a problem'. I started and it was a full house at Hampden. I remember just standing there with the anthem playing, the camera going down the line and I had people in the stands; it was such a big game against a world power. That's the one that really sticks out in my mind. 1-1 in the scheme of things wasn't bad.”

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Devlin's journey to a place in the Scotland squad bears similarities with the national team's newest recruit Che Adams. Both started their careers in non-league and eventually worked their way up to the Premier League, both were born in the English Midlands and both have Sheffield United and Birmingham on their CVs as previous employers.

Adams qualifies by virtue of a Scottish grandparent but Devlin says he was entrenched in his own Scottish roots when he was growing up in Erdington, a five-minute drive from Villa Park. His dad hails from Coatbridge and school holidays were spent in the South Lanarkshire town visiting relatives who were also quick to retell stories about Celtic. When he got older he was part of a supporters club and would regularly make the dawn run north on a packed bus for matches at Parkhead. When he was plonked down in front of Home International matches as a kid, it was always a big occasion in the Devlin household.

“The thing that always sticks in my mind as a young kid was the Home Internationals, it was as if my dad scoured the whole area for the 15 drunkest jocks he could find and he would bring them back to the house to watch the football. I was always really aware of my Scottish background and I was never allowed to have an England kit or anything like that – it was always Scotland.”

Nevertheless, he was nervous the first time he walked into the Scotland dressing room.

“It's always a little bit daunting, a little bit nerve-wracking going into a new changing room and obviously when it's international football – the pinnacle – it's even more so. It was a difficult time in Scotland’s recent history, Berti's reign. You do feel like a little bit of an outsider. Graham Alexander and I ended up rooming together and I probably gravitated towards him because of his English accent. Graham was a bit like me, a bit of an Anglo, similar accent and he's from not far from where I am from. But they were a good bunch to be fair. Barry Ferguson, James McFadden, Gary Naysmith and Jackie McNamara were all in the squad and I got on well with them.”

Devlin, who works as a health and wellbeing coach, has been a matchday ambassador at St Andrews since 2016. It's a role that has also given him a vantage point from which to assess the performances of Adams. The Southampton striker, who made his debut in Thursday night's World Cup qualifier against Austria spent three years at Birmingham, where he was a prolific goalscorer after a slow start.

“He struggled to get in the side when he first went to Southampton so he didn't play a lot of football but in the last few months he seems to have established himself. He's got used to his team-mates, he's got used to the style of play and he looks a handful. I always thought he could play at the top level when he was at Sheffield United and Birmingham, really. I think if you asked him he would like to score more but he's not getting seven and eight chances a game as you might if you were playing for Man City or Liverpool. He is still relatively young in the scheme of things and there is room for improvement there.”

As an up-and-coming 18-year-old at Stafford Rangers, Devlin was in demand after scoring a goal against Liverpool in pre-season. Then Liverpool manager Graeme Souness invited him for a two-week trial at Anfield “that ran to six or seven”. Leeds were also battling for his signature but in the end he joined Notts County who were managed by Neil Warnock. He says he would not change his circuitous route to the top despite the feeling of uncertainty that making a big step up brings.

“I went from playing Sunday football, then Saturday semi-professional football, to making my debut in the old first division against Kenny Sansom who was at that time England's most-capped full-back. A couple of months earlier I was playing against a geezer out of the pub. The step up is huge. But I think that non-league grounding makes you hungrier and you see an element of that with Che as well. You appreciate what you've got more when you get to that pro level when you've been going out on building sites and training twice a week.”