IF there was ever any inkling of the Scotland players getting carried away after their brilliant win over Spain – and with this group, the chances were slim – then they would have been swiftly brought back down to earth when they walked triumphantly into their Hampden Park changing room on Tuesday night.

Greeting them was their manager, Steve Clarke, who first offered warm congratulations on their performance, and then a predictable dose of reality. When exactly did Clarke serve his men a reminder that the job of qualifying for the European Championships in Germany next year was far from accomplished?

“Straight away,” said Callum McGregor. And they expected nothing less.

The Celtic captain, so impressive across the past week and over the course of his 51 caps for his country, certainly enjoyed the moment as the Scots swept the Spaniards aside. But he doesn’t want to be remembered as part of a Scotland team that beat Spain. He wants to be remembered as part of a Scotland team that qualifies regularly for tournaments.

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“It’s only two games, and to qualify, we need more points,” he said.

“Of course, it is a great night, but if we go right through the campaign and don’t qualify then nobody talks about this night, they talk about not qualifying.

“Brilliant, we banked the three points on Tuesday night, but it’s so important we come back in June ready to go.”

As well as giving Scotland an exceptional platform in their qualification group though, the win over Spain and the manner of it has imbued the Scottish players with a sense that they are capable of competing with just about anyone.

Just as important as that belief though, according to McGregor, is maintaining the humility that has got them into such a position.

“Of course, that’s where we want to get to [competing with the top teams],” he said.

“We obviously need to do it in a slightly different way, and when teams come here, we want to make it difficult for them.

“We upset the rhythm of their game and they probably got sucked into it a little bit as well, trying to argue with the referee and things like that.

“They probably didn’t play the game as slick as they like to play it, but what Tuesday night does is give us huge confidence that we can go on and when big teams come here, we can get results. Of course we can.

“It’s still important to understand though that it is only two games, we’ve still got a lot of work to go.

“We have got to stay humble, keep our feet on the ground and keep working, that’s the reason why a result like this comes about.

“It’s because there is a humility within the group that if you get one result, you don’t think you are away up here, we understand where we are and we need everybody on the same page for that.”

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It is intriguing that McGregor makes a point of referencing the way that the Spanish players were knocked out of their stride, allowing their focus to shift from playing their game to arguing with the referee. A trap that was laid expertly by the Scots, it seems, and one their opponents blundered into all too readily.

“That was probably the perfect way we wanted the game to play out from speaking about it in the days leading up to the game,” he said.

“To get the early goal gives everybody a lift, gives us energy in the game, and then you stick to that.

“You see the gameplan coming off, you nick the ball, you get the transition, and get us up the pitch.

“It probably played out perfectly, but that was no mistake. That was the way we wanted to play the game. It was excellent, a really, really good night.

“It’s why you play football, to represent your country in a big game against a top nation. To go and win it in that style as well I thought was outstanding.

“A lot of credit has to go to the players, the manager, everybody together as a group.

“And the supporters were fantastic as well from start to finish.”

While McTominay may have grabbed the headlines on Tuesday, McGregor was superb in a more withdrawn role. And, as he concedes, he can hardly ask to switch jobs with the Manchester United man at present in any case.

“Not when he’s scoring two goals every game,” he said.

He is happy to be a critical cog in Clarke’s Scotland machine, though, particularly when it is purring as it was against the Spanish.

“The structure of the team probably allows one of the midfielders to go, the other one to sit and be secure with the three,” he said.

“Obviously Scotty has got great athleticism, he can get forward, he can join in, and he has shown the quality as well to go and finish.

“He’s a brilliant weapon to have for any team, and especially for us to try to utilise that as a strength.

“You need everybody to function properly within the team or else the team doesn’t function. There’s 11 of us for a reason, and the manager wants everybody to play their part.

“The defensive side of the game is just as important as the attacking side, and vice-versa.

“When it all comes together, as it did on Tuesday night, then brilliant.”