ONE of the best things about being the Scotland manager is that you have the chance to make people happy for a while. That’s what football players and managers love to do.

It’s a bit more special still if you can make the country happy, that’s just fantastic, and that’s what the players will be thinking about just now. How they can make their families happy too, and how they can make their families proud of them.

You can sense there is a growing confidence around how Scotland will fare in the European Championships from fans and the players themselves, and I think rightly so.

There is a feelgood factor, we have a good level of player, there is a great spirit in the camp with the camaraderie between the players.

Croatia aren’t the Croatia of three or four years ago, there’s no doubt about that, and while the Czech Republic have got strength and height and a bit of technique, there’s nothing between us and them.

And who knows what can happen in the England game? I know Gareth Southgate really respects the Scotland team, and Scotland won’t be looking at that game as a free hit. I don’t believe in free hits, every game is a chance to win three points.

Predictions can always come back to bite you, but I think Scotland can get five points. Or four at the least, and that will get them to the knockout round. That would be fantastic.

There’s every reason why we should be feeling good about ourselves. There’s no negative feelings still hovering around from past tournaments, because we haven’t had anything like this for 23 years, so we can’t really remember how it used to go! There’s no example of the modern-day team going into a tournament, it’s all new to everybody.

I’m sure the boys will love every minute of it. We’ve got boys playing in the Premier League who are doing very well at the minute, I’m very optimistic around our midfield and our left-hand side, so we have a lot going for us.

I don’t think this group of players have that old Scottish burden of glorious failure and all that. That’s been shared by 23 years of players and managers, that hasn’t been shared by this squad.

There are guys in this squad who have only been there for a matter of months.

It’s the same as when Rod Petrie came out with that line about Hibs fans having ‘116 years of pent-up frustration’ when they invaded the pitch at the cup final a few years back. I never saw anybody who was 140 running on there.

So, these boys haven’t been affected by that and all the pressure that comes with it. What they have is real enjoyment in what they are doing. It’s not as if there are players who have been hanging about there for 10 or 15 years outwith the goalies. It’s moved on, there’s been a turnaround, and so that frustration isn’t there. It’s all fresh, it’s new, and that’s why these boys will go into it without any apprehension at all.

It was a nice touch by Andy Robertson to get the gift boxes for the players, but there’s much more to his leadership abilities than just that. He understands that it’s about every moment you are with people in football that matters. It’s your everyday interaction with people and helping people, and making sure everybody is comfortable. That’s what Andy does. That’s what John McGinn does. It’s all these wee things.

As far as Steve Clarke is concerned, he will just be letting it flow. Why not enjoy it? Be positive. Be realistic, but be positive. Enjoy your training. If you want to laugh, laugh.

The players feel it themselves and they are enjoying each other’s company. How do you dampen enthusiasm like that? Why would you want to? To get them worried about it? Really?

Steve will see everything that is going on. It might be that if he sees them two hours before the game and people are a wee bit hyper, then fine, let’s sit down and have a wee talk about this. But they will be fine now the players. They will be enjoying this part of it.

As a manager, it’s those two hours before the game when you’re getting on the bus and all that. That’s when you’re asking how they are doing, how they are feeling. You need to see the players as individuals. You might need to talk to one or two, is somebody getting a wee bit over the top? That’s what you do as a manager.

As for just before the players go out, I wasn’t one for making up grand Churchillian speeches, I would just make things up on the spur of the moment. Something can happen on the morning of the game and sometimes it works out really well. We’ve all done those big speeches though and been 1-0 down after 45 seconds.

It can be something as simple as walking past a player in the corridor and saying ‘glad you’re playing tonight’, and walking away. I used to see some players wondering to themselves if I was taking the p***.

But it’s just these wee things that count in management rather than the big grand speeches. It’s about sports psychology, and Steve will have done all the hard work before it comes to being in the dressing room before the game.

I’ve been able to detach myself a bit from football as I’ve been a professional working in it for 50-odd years. I’ve only ever really shown my passion on the outside a couple of times when I’ve been working on a game. The most recent was when Serbia equalised in the last minute against us and suddenly I was a fan again.

That may happen again when the tournament kicks off, let’s see how we get on. I fancy us to beat the Czech Republic 1-0, and if that happens, you just never know!