IT has always been an honour for Andy Robertson to represent his country. But it hasn’t always been as much of a pleasure as it is now.

The Scotland captain was there in the days when a half-empty Hampden was the norm, as a litany of qualification failures saw apathy among the fans reach an all-time high. In fact, he would go as far to say that at one point in the fledgling days of his international career, the relationship between the national team and the Tartan Army was broken.

The surest sign that those wounds have now been healed is the one reading ‘sold out’ that will be placed outside Hampden for the European Championship qualifiers against Cyprus this afternoon and Spain on Tuesday night. And there is one man who is responsible for the country coming together behind their team again more than any other in Robertson’s book.

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That man, of course, is Steve Clarke. So, it is hardly surprising that news of the contract extension the Scotland manager signed with the SFA yesterday was greeted warmly within his playing squad.

“We got told before training,” Robertson said. “It’s great news for the whole of the country.

“I think Scotland fans have taken to the gaffer from day one. Yeah, we’ve had some tough moments, but he’s made massive improvements to the squad, massive improvements behind the scenes as well.

“We knew we had one more campaign with him but it’s great to extend that to the next two. He believes he can take us even further and make more improvements still - and we believe that too. We’ve got another four years with him and we’re looking forward to it.

“I think he’s brought stability first and foremost. And he’s engaged again with the Scotland fans. He’s set us up in a way that the players and the fans can have a relationship again.

“Before he came in again, the relationship was broken. I don’t think there were many people excited to come to Hampden.

“That was proved with the attendances we’ve had. I’ve played here in front of 10,000 or 12,000 fans for qualifying games.

“But the next two games and hopefully the whole campaign will show you that [the country are behind us]. Saturday we’re expecting a full house. Tuesday the same.

“As a player that makes a huge difference. Playing in front of a full Scotland crowd, knowing the pubs up and down the country will be full with people wanting to watch us, excited to watch us again it just shows that the feel-good factor is back.

“It’s up to us to repay that.”

It wasn’t only a fair old rump of the support who couldn’t be bothered to turn up for Scotland games in the not-so-distant past, but a decent chunk of the playing staff too. The days of squad announcements being quickly followed by raft of call-offs also seem to be over, though.

Robertson puts that down to the way that Clarke has created an elite environment for the players whenever they are away on international duty, a topic that has been in the headlines this week after Scotland assistant manager John Carver heavily criticised the training pitch at Oriam.

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Clarke and his players have prepared for today’s fixture at Lesser Hampden, and given the stock the players place in such standards being upheld, it is little wonder Clarke and his staff do too.

“I think with the gaffer working at big teams like Liverpool and Chelsea, he knows the standards that these clubs have got,” Robertson said.

“We’ve got players who are playing at big clubs and we know the standards that are expected.

“I think the manager and the backroom staff have done an unbelievable job at trying to replicate that, trying to produce that.

“Off the field we’ve been making massive strides, and we have done since the gaffer came in.

“It took a bit of time because the results on the pitch were a bit hit and miss, but we knew we were part of a project.

“We knew we were moving in the right direction off the field and it was only a matter of time before we would get the benefit from it.

“I think we’re seeing that now. Off the field we’re a lot better run, it’s a lot more professional and we all buy into that.

“It’s as if we’re at one of the top clubs, and I think when you do that then the lads are desperate to show up.

“We’re all excited to come away with Scotland and we know we are going to get looked after from the moment we walk in until the moment we leave.

“It’s up to us then to react off that. We know we have to produce results and be competing, and I think the lads have dealt with that pressure very well.

“I think if you go back to maybe five or six years ago and you look at a squad that was named, you could potentially have had eight or nine call-offs.

“That doesn’t help anyone. Lads were prioritising club football and being able to make sure they were 100 per cent for their club.

“That can be understandable at times. But, also, I think there’s now a real hunger to play for Scotland. Everyone is showing that.

“People are coming into camp with slight knocks and wanting to play through pain and take the risk, like you would do with your club.

“I think you need that. You need the best players, all the players possible, and you need a competitive squad.”