THAT the result of Tuesday night’s Nations League tie against Israel will shift the goalposts for Alex McLeish and his coaching team is a given.
Qualify for the play-offs – a back-door route to Euro 2020 – and the new competition will immediately gain a place in the affections of the Tartan Army.
The feel-good factor will be back. The warm anticipation of a likely return to a major Finals – with games at Hampden adding extra spice – will see McLeish and Co lauded for the success.
Fail, however, and there will be no hiding place from the clamour for change, hasty though it would seem, given the current incumbent was only appointed nine months ago.
Anyone who has supported the country since the halcyon days of France 98, or indeed joined up since, will hope it is the former.
By all known logic, through pitting Scotland with countries in the same FIFA banding, the competition offers the most viable route we have had to ending a wretched exile from tournament football.
The depth of pain generated by the team’s dismal display in Haifa was in no small part caused by the knowledge Israel are a team we should be beating.
Pitting like-with-like is the Nations League’s clever concept. Scotland’s conceit is based on the perception we are ranked much lower than where we ought to stand in the international game.
If we have that taken away from us, it will leave nothing but rancour and recrimination.
More positively, the reverse should be the case.
Win against Israel, and the goalposts should shift in McLeish’s favour – and not just in the eyes of the fans.
Players, who might have been sceptical about the direction the country is heading in, will get on board with renewed enthusiasm.
In the modern game, it is a fact that pressure is exerted by club managers on those who might just have minor niggles to shun their country.
Even then, it will often come down to the desire of the players themselves to be involved.
That desire is not to be underestimated.
Think of the stories of colitis sufferer Darren Fletcher arriving attached to a drip.
Equally, it also needs to be replenished.
In the nine games of McLeish’s tenure, there has been little evidence of this happening – even allowing for the formidable opposition in friendlies.
Which is precisely why, come Tuesday, night, the manager must preside over such a fillip to prevent the narrative taking hold that his time may already be up.