LIKE all Scotland fans, I’m naturally disappointed that our Euro 2020 adventure has come to an end without us making it out of the group stage.

But I still feel positive about the future and believe this group of young players can hopefully go on to achieve so much more.

Everyone has had an opinion following the defeat to Croatia on Tuesday night. Steve Clarke and his players have come in for some criticism for not getting the result we needed.

I think some of it has been unfair. It’s easy for anyone sitting at home on their armchairs and sofas to say what they would have done in Steve’s shoes.

As a former player and manager, I’ve tried to reflect on it more pragmatically. We were the lowest ranked team in our group which was maybe forgotten amid all the hype.

Having finally qualified after 23 years and then having done so well at Wembley, there was maybe a heightened sense of expectation about what should be expected from this Scotland squad.

Steve had said he wanted to be competitive throughout the tournament and the team undoubtedly were.

I just feel that in the two games against the Czechs and Croatia, the opposition were better. It’s as simple as that sometimes in sport.

People will talk about selection and tactics but for me it’s a clash between perception and reality. The Czech Republic had better quality on the day and in the Croatia game they had better players and were also just better on the day.

We have to be realistic as a country. I read articles and watched a lot of the reaction and I don’t think we should be getting too ahead of ourselves.

We acquitted ourselves well, we created good chances against three dangerous teams but it just wasn’t to be. The other sides just had that extra bit of quality where it matters that we were lacking.

It was a tough group. And with the two games being at Hampden, everyone expected us to do well because of home advantage. Sometimes that just heaps extra pressure on you.

But what was refreshing for me and gives me optimism for the future was the way Andy Robertson, Callum McGregor and John McGinn spoke in the immediate aftermath of the Croatia defeat.

Emotions often run high right after a match but the three of them were so honest in their reflection of where they’re at as a team.

That’s the way that you learn. They didn’t start to blame others or look for excuses. They just simply recognised that they had been beaten by a better team and vowed to learn from it.

That, for me, was a true reflection on how Scotland performed at the tournament and I have to pay the players massive credit for that as that’s not an easy thing to do as a player.

Self-awareness is everything when you’re looking for improvement. And I think the experience of just being at a major finals will have helped Steve and all his players looking forward.

They now know what’s required for tournament football and that you can’t just peak for one game. That was really evident and they will learn from that.

And sometimes when things don’t go your way, that’s when you really learn and improve as often when you have success you just accept it without really analysing it.

When you go through suffering and disappointment then having that awareness about the circumstances definitely helps you become better.

In Scotland we talk about developing players over four pillars: technical, tactical, physical and psychological.

There’s provision in place for those first three pillars but we do very little in the psychological area at times. And that’s something the best athletes study in huge detail as understanding psyche in sport is huge.

This is a young squad and they’ve now been exposed to this experience. That will stand them in good stead.

We’ve seen the emergence of Billy Gilmour and Nathan Patterson, with David Turnbull in the squad, too.

I’d expect all three will stay part of Steve’s plans going forward as we move towards the next challenge.

We need more coming through now to provide that blend you need alongside seasoned pros like Robertson and Kieran Tierney.

We need more like them playing at the very top level on a more regular basis. Gilmour came into the team having not played that much for Chelsea last season and you want your players to be getting those experiences at club level on a more regular basis.

We’ll now resume our World Cup qualifying group and try to see if we can qualify again. There will be an expectation now on this group of players after ending that 23-year wait but the challenge now is to try to sustain that over a longer period. And it’s another tough group with Denmark and Austria in there and no play-off safety net.

The thing that will stay with me most about the Euros is just the buzz it created all around the country for those few weeks. Being involved has lifted the whole nation, even people who wouldn’t normally watch games have been getting caught up in it.

The results weren’t what we wanted but we shouldn’t forget the joy and excitement Steve and the team brought us this summer. They deserve a lot of credit for that.