NOBODY needs to tell Colin Hendry how difficult it is for a team to make it through to the knockout rounds at a major tournament.

The legendary Scotland centre half played at both the Euro ’96 and France ’98 finals during his 51 cap international career - and on each occasion the national side were unable to get out of the group stages.

But Hendry, who celebrated along with thousands of his compatriots on Sunday night as Spain beat Norway 1-0 in Oslo to send this country through to the Euro 2024 finals, is optimistic that Germany next summer will be a different story.

He has, like so many observers, been hugely impressed with how Andy Robertson and his team mates have acquitted themselves during their qualifying campaign and is hopeful they can fare better than any of their predecessors come June.

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“I see no reason why they can’t go through to the knockout rounds,” he said. “I have watched every game. They have been absolutely fantastic. The efforts from everybody, the players, the management, the supporters, have been amazing. It is a good time to be to be Scottish.”

Hendry can see uncanny similarities between this Scotland side and the teams he played for back in the 1990s and feels they can go into the Euro 2024 finals with confidence regardless of which countries they are drawn to face in Hamburg in December.

“One of the parallels is that the players are playing their club football at the top level down south and abroad,” he said. “You have got Kieran Tierney, Andy Robertson, John McGinn and Scott McTominay. How that lad isn’t starting for Manchester United I do not know.

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“But they are not just playing at the top, they are winning things at the top. Andy has won the Premier League and the Champions League with Liverpool. Kieran has won the FA Cup with Arsenal and McTominay has won the League Cup with United.

“Paul Lambert won the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund when I played. Kevin Gallacher and I had won the Premiership with Blackburn Rovers. There are a lot of things which are similar.

“They have a very solid defence as well and that was something we certainly had. Their performances at the back have been fantastic during this campaign. They hadn’t conceded a goal from open play until the Spain game last week. A good defence gives you a platform to build on and achieve something.”

Hendry continued: “Then there is the strength in depth that Stevie has at his disposal. Billy Gilmour and Nathan Patterson are doing well at Brighton and Everton in the Premier League. Liam Cooper and Kenny McLean are with Leeds United and Norwich City in the Championship. Lewis Ferguson is doing great with Bologna in Serie A.

“But none of them started against Spain on Thursday night. The more players we have got playing in the top leagues around Europe the better it is for us. We had that competition for places in my day. The squad is needed at the finals of a tournament, no doubt about it.”

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Clarke ended an agonising 23 year wait to qualify for the finals of a tournament back in 2020 when he led his Scotland team to a thrilling penalty shoot-out play-off final victory over Serbia in Belgrade.

But the former Newcastle United, Chelsea and Liverpool assistant was unable to get his team out of Group D and into the last 16 at Euro 2020; they lost 2-0 to the Czech Republic in their opening match, drew 0-0 with England in their second outing and then slumped to  3-1 defeat to Croatia in their final fixture and finished bottom of their section.

However, Hendry feels the experience that the likes of Scott McKenna, Callum McGregor, Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes, as well as his old national team mate Clarke, gained two years ago will prove invaluable at Euro 2024.

“When I was involved at Euro 96, we got battered by Holland at Villa Park and were effectively beaten 0-0,” he said. “Then we were so unlucky against England and lost 2-0. But we should have got a draw. Then in the final game against Switzerland we won 1-0, but didn’t score enough goals.

“We definitely benefitted from being involved in those finals, without a shadow of a doubt. At the World Cup in Fance two years later we were very unfortunate against Brazil in the opening game and should have beaten Norway.

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“Okay, we were downright poor in the third game against Morocco. But I did feel Euro ’96 stood us in good stead for France ’98. It gave us experience, made us aware of the challenges we would face, helped us deal with the short turnaround between games and ensured we knew how to plan our preparation. The lads will benefit from the Euro 2020 finals.

“It is the same for Stevie as well. He felt afterwards that he should have freshened his team up for the final match with Croatia. But I am sure that Craig Brown would have looked at what he did in Euro ‘96 and examined personally how he could improve going into France ‘98. Everyone learns all the time.”

Hendry is slightly concerned that Scotland do not have a striker who is playing and scoring regularly for a team in one of the top European leagues. But he has a novel suggestion for Clarke on that front. 

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“I think getting out of the group at Euro 2024 might come down to goals,” he said. “We don’t have a particularly prolific striker, we don’t have anyone who is ripping it up in a top league. Che and Lyndon are both playing in the Championship. We don’t have a top level goalscorer.

“But, listen, we have got John McGinn and Scott McTominay. They have been scoring regularly at international level. Maybe Steve should just play the two of them up front together!”

Hendry also thinks that having the Tartan Army over in Germany in large numbers – Covid restrictions were still in place during the Euro 2020 finals and games were played in half-empty stadiums – will make a difference to Scotland at Euro 2024.

“This is going to be proper,” he said. “I took my two boys Callum and Kyle with me to the Scotland game against England at Wembley at Euro 2020. But there were only 20,000 there so that affected the atmosphere.

“This time it will be a different ball game. The Tartan Army will be out in force and it will be something else, it really will be. It will be exciting. I will certainly be there – and hopefully not just for the group stages.”