JAMES McFadden hadn’t played for five weeks, his hamstring was far from perfect and he had no guarantee Walter Smith would start him in a vital home qualifier against France.

He still reported for duty. Pulling out of a squad, even when there was good reason, was for the weak. This is Scotland. The highest honour in football, especially for this footballer.

We won that day in 2006 and he was brilliant.

McFadden wasn’t always an automatic started for his country over the 48 caps he garnered. He was certainly never fully fit after breaking a bone in his foot at the age of 23. For the fifth time in his career.

Not once did he turn down the chance to have that red lion against his chest.

And even after McFadden, still a national treasure, had his career at the top level taken away from him when he seriously injured his cruciate, he was only 27, this is someone who would happily have carried water bottles for the cause.

So, while on the face of it he was sympathetic to Leigh Griffiths and the Celtic man’s decision to pull out of the squad – personally I think he hid his true feelings – it was clear this one-time talisman and now national team coach will never understand why any player feels anything is more important than Scotland.

Griffiths was the main topic of conversation yesterday and McFadden didn't bat away any question about what is an awkward situation.

McFadden’s was asked whether he would ever have said no to his country for any reasons. You should have seen the look on his face.

He said: “It never crossed my mind. Any game, I wanted to play in it whether I was fully fit or not. I’ve played games in that situation. When we played France at home I hadn’t played in any games for four or five weeks due to a hamstring injury.

“We didn’t have any players and I didn’t expect to play. But I came and played as a lone striker. I wasn’t as fit as I would’ve liked to have been but I would ever have said no.

“Scotland should still be the pinnacle but it’s a personal thing. I’m never going to tell people what to do. But having played a lot when I was younger and then had a bad injury and never got back in... I finished playing for Scotland when I was 27 - and I still miss it."

McFadden holds a special place in the hearts of the supporters because he was one of them; just once capable of the remarkable.

He said: "There’s times when I didn’t played and I wasn’t happy and I’d sulk as well. I didn’t like not playing but I’d never turn my back on it. I’ve spoken to some players who at times have felt like they were going to stop playing and concentrate on their club football but I would say that I think they would regret it.

“Later in life when their career is finished they would look back and say I probably could have played on. I think you’ve just got to savour every minute you get with the national side because you don’t know how long it’s going to last.

“With James McArthur, he has problems with injury and feels the best way for him to prolong his career is to give up on playing for Scotland. He might not have any regrets - but if you are a young enough guy and you’re still deemed good enough to play for your country, you might look back and wish you’d kept going.

“It’s a personal choice but for me I don’t think I’d ever have got to the stage where I would have said I’m going to concentrate on club football. I just loved playing for Scotland. It was taken away from me.”

McFadden never made it to a major championship and there were times and teams which were hard for any Scotland fan to take and yet he never stop believing.

He said: “Every time a new campaign started I always felt that we’ll win this group and qualify. Why would you not want to be part of a group that’s making history for us because it’s been so long since we were at a major tournament?

“Go and be the guy who’s played at a major tournament for Scotland because it doesn’t happen very often.

“I always thought we’ll qualify and then once we get there we can be the first team to get us out the group stage at a major tournament. Always aim for something, try to achieve something that’s never been done before.

“Especially with the group we have now, I think we have really belief that we can qualify.”

McFadden will forever be remember for that goal in Paris and should Griffiths never play for Scotland again, at least he will always have Hampden and those two free-kicks.

Ah, but as McFadden says, why settle for just a couple of golden moments.

He said: “You can get better than that - you can get winners against England and goals that take you to a major tournament. I totally get that those free-kicks will define him because it’s something that he’ll remember,but that doesn’t mean you settle for that.

“I hate talking about the goal I scored against France because it meant nothing - we never qualified. The goal I wanted to score was against Italy but I missed the chance.

“If that goes in you’re talking about the goal that takes you to qualification for a tournament when you’ve not been for years. There is always more.

“These moments might mean a lot but make it mean something to everybody, by helping us qualify - to actually achieve something for Scotland.”

Maybe Faddy could take a youth pill, get some new knees and thrill us one last time. If there was a one per cent chance, he would go for it.

Anyway, there is a game on Thursday.

Scotland go to Israel and should they win then, and or course the Nations League is an overly complicated affair, the national team will have a great chance of making the European Championships of 2020.

McFadden said: “It’s a great chance to qualify but the most important thing is to win the games, top the group and get a play-off spot.

“But that doesn’t mean that when the qualifiers come around we just focus on the play-off spot. We still have to go into the qualifiers to win the games required and that way we don’t need the play-off. Hopefully we can qualify straight away.

“It’s a great way for us to build a team and a style of play and be competitive. We won’t say job done, relax and look only to the play-offs.

“They have got good players and it will be tough. We concentrate on what we do. We have players who can cause them problems. We are a good team."

And the way McFadden says it makes you believe.