As Scotland prepare for tonight’s game against Slovakia, the most important element as they head onto the pitch is belief.

Hoops midfielder Callum McGregor has been drafted into the squad in the absence of the influential Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong and I have to say that I think the boy is up to speed enough to go straight in.

Certainly, I would have no hesitation in using him, whether that be from the start or from the bench.

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I think the lad has played in enough big games under Brendan Rodgers with Celtic to show that he is capable of playing at international level.

To me, he would be ok being pitched into the fray. He has been involved in Champions League games at a club level and while I think that both Brown and Armstrong are serious misses, it is up to everyone else to step up and make sure that the performance level doesn’t slip.

Scotland are going into the game on the back of a sequence of four wins which has put them in the position where we are still in there fighting for the play-off spot. It might still seem like a massive ask, but you have to at least go out there and put in the performance that suggests you are good enough to be in the mix.

To that end, you need to believe; in one another and individually. You need to believe as a team that you are good enough to get there and have the personnel to deliver.

Having been in a similar situation back in 1973 when I was part of the Scotland team who beat Czechoslovakia 2-1 to qualify for the 1974 World Cup – the first time that we had been at the World Cup finals since 1958.

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I remember the weight of expectation because it had been so long since we were there but my overriding memory is that as a team there was a conviction about us as we went into that game.

If memory serves me correctly, Czechoslovakia actually took the lead but there was a calmness about us collectively. Back in those days we didn’t have quite so many games to qualify so that would be one of the main differences but there are similarities certainly between then and now.

Of course, no matter what happens tomorrow night there is still Sunday to cope with for Scotland but that becomes redundant without consideration to what happens at Hampden tonight – it is must win and it will be interesting to see just how Scotland cope with that.

My own abiding memory of the night we qualify for the ’74 World Cup finals was taking a lap of honour around Hampden. Most supporters had stayed behind to celebrate the win and it was a nice feeling to have got us there.

Hampden is a different beats to what it is now, of course. There were probably double the numbers that will be in attendance this evening and a Hampden crowd really could carry you on.

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I am not so sure the effect is the same with the atmosphere diluted somewhat but they still have a role to play this evening.

Granted, our team in ’73 had one or two genuine stars like Dennis Law but what I remember most about that campaign is that it was very much a team ethic. We relied on the collective and that was what got us through and I suspect it has to be the same again for Scotland now.

It could be one of those games when it comes down to a set-piece and what you can do with it. We have all seen Leigh Griffiths enough now to know that he has come on leaps and bounds under the last year with Brendan Rodgers a huge influence in how improved he has been.

It could be that we rely on him to bang in another one of those free-kicks that bewildered Joe Hart back in June and what you would say about Griffiths just now is that he is a player oozing confidence.

He has been in among the goals, he has scored at Ibrox, he has scored in the Champions League and any striker in that frame of mind will go into the game believing that he can score.

I wouldn’t expect an easy night for Scotland. I expect that it will be tense and the Slovakians, who would be happy with just a point, will make life difficult for us.

You have to stay strong and concentration, particularly defensively, is paramount. To that end, we also have a goalkeeper going into the game on the back of a pretty decent save last weekend.

All in all, it will make for interesting viewing tonight.