There was a silver medal and the applause of his international team-mates to mark Stuart Armstrong’s 25-cap milestone but it is plaudits of a different kind that the midfielder is in search of as Scotland head into the European Championships. 

No Scotland team has planted a foot outside the group stages of any major international tournament. Making a little bit of history in a group that contains the Czech Republic, England and Croatia is a daunting ask but there is, perhaps, a freedom for the current squad given the burden they had to carry in getting there on the back of 23 years of their noses pressed against the glass as tournament after tournament passed them by. 

“It's surreal when you put it like that [a week before the first tournament for 23 years]” said Armstrong. “Our job is to forget that and focus on being footballers to get the most out of ourselves on the pitch and after the event, when it's hopefully all gone well, we can reminisce and look back and analyse and be proud to have represented our country at a major tournament. 

"Looking back on growing up, certainly speaking for myself, I had dreams of winning things, Champions League and Premier League but, yeah, representing Scotland at a major tournament is something different and very special and it's a feeling you can't really describe. It's representing the whole country and feeling the emotion behind it all and everyone is desperate for the country to do well.” 


READ MORE: Gordon Strachan: Forget boozing or go-karting, Scotland's team spirit is built on results and can carry us to knockout stages

Scotland’s midfield is fairly congested with significant competition for places. John McGinn, Armstrong, Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay, Billy Gilmour and David Turnbull will offer selection issues with Clarke reflecting last week that he left the Algarve with the kind of headache all managers like to have. 

Armstrong and new Scotland recruit Che Adams have an understanding that has been forged at club level which might come into play at some stage.  

"He's got a lot of dimensions to his game,” said the 29-year-old. “He's powerful, strong and holds the ball up well but also good speed and very technical so he will run in behind and his shot's pretty ferocious. He's got a good all-round game and that's key to being able to play up front these days.

"I feel at the moment we are in a good position. We like to take it bit by bit and not think too far ahead of ourselves but what I can say is that we do have a belief about us. The quality is definitely within our squad.  

“Throughout the whole team, in many positions, there's two or three players you could argue over and debate about which is always a healthy thing.

"It's great to have competition, great for the squad, probably a headache for the manager but that's what you want going into a major competition with the number of games, the ability to change it and be flexible. It's a good position to be in. It's definitely exciting.”