SIMON DONNELLY once went to a World Cup with Scotland as one of eight Celtic players whose confidence was sky-high off the back of securing the title, and he believes that by placing faith in today’s high-flying Celts, that the nation can make it back to a major championship once more.

Donnelly was selected by national team head coach Craig Brown as part of his squad for France ‘98, which two decades on, remains the last time that Scotland reached such a stage.

The former Celtic forward wasn’t surprised to see the positive impact that Celtic midfielders Stuart Armstrong and Callum McGregor had on the game last Friday night when they came on after an hour of the national team’s defeat to Costa Rica, and he says it is no coincidence that Alex McLeish’s side put on a much-improved display against Hungary in Tuesday night’s win with the pair restored to the starting line-up.

Read more: Simon Donnelly says that Celtic should bring in Hibs star John McGinn to be groomed as Scott Brown's successor

If Donnelly was to have his way, the third cog in Scotland’s midfield in Budapest, Hibs star John McGinn, would also be a Celtic player before too long, and he believes that this is a trio that both club side and country could be built around for years to come.

“I think it was the turning point in our last campaign when we brought in six or seven [Celtic players],” Donnelly said.

“Speaking from experience, it’s always good to have guys that you’re working with day-in, day-out alongside you to give you that understanding.

“It has really benefitted Scotland, and although we unfortunately just didn’t get over the finishing line [in the last qualifying campaign], I think it is the way ahead for the future.

“Thinking back to when we won the league in 1998, there were eight of us that then went to the World Cup, and it just relaxes you. It certainly helps.

“We started really poorly in the last campaign, and bringing these players in who were used to winning at Celtic brought that to the Scotland side.

“They have played in the big games and Scotland will reap the rewards for it.

Read more: Simon Donnelly says that Celtic should bring in Hibs star John McGinn to be groomed as Scott Brown's successor

“I think we should be building the Scotland team around these guys. I know that Alex McLeish was experimenting on Friday night, but I think we build the team around the likes of McGregor, Armstrong and McGinn.

“I think that’s a really exciting and creative midfield going forward for Scotland.”

With his creativity and guile as an attacking midfielder, McGregor in particular has impressed Donnelly this season, and he has been particularly struck by how well he has thrived as the level of opposition in front of him has increased.

The mark of his ability for Donnelly is the way that he has been able to stand out whether Celtic have been playing Brechin City or Bayern Munich, and he says that the faith placed in him by manager Brendan Rodgers has been a vital factor in stoking the belief that is currently coursing through the player.

“You look at McGregor in the Champions League games this year, and he’s just been superb,” he said.

“I love the guy, I love the way he plays the game on the half-turn receiving the ball. He is always probing, always trying to create.

“It’s not the easiest position in the team, and sometimes when it doesn’t work the finger can get pointed at you, even at Celtic where he is the home-grown player.

“He has gone from strength to strength. In the home game against Zenit he was unbelievable, and against Hungary for Scotland on a poor pitch he was controlling the game and controlling the ball, and it is good to see for the future.

Read more: Simon Donnelly says that Celtic should bring in Hibs star John McGinn to be groomed as Scott Brown's successor

“Brendan has brought players in, but a lot of the guys who were there from before, their levels have gone up.

“Whatever he is doing day-in, day-out is working. Stuart Armstrong is [another] one, and he has just instilled that belief in guys and given them the chance in team. And they have taken it.

“Speaking from experience, if you are in a team and you are playing every week and you know the manager believes in you, rather than it getting to 60 minutes and you’re looking for your number going up, it settles you down.”

McGregor, of course, has had his ups and downs during his Celtic career, both on and off the pitch, but Donnelly is glad to see that the 24-year-old seems to have matured in recent times both as a player and as a person.

With his place in the reckoning for both club and country now looking more secure, Donnelly believes that both sides will reap the rewards.

So much so, in fact, that he is in no doubt that a player who was farmed out on loan to Notts County earlier in his career, should be an integral player for both club and country.

Read more: Simon Donnelly says that Celtic should bring in Hibs star John McGinn to be groomed as Scott Brown's successor

And he thinks that the fact McGregor has stood up to the challenges he has faced as a Celtic player, refused to wilt, and forced himself into such a prominent position at the club, proves that he is made of stern stuff.

“That happens at clubs like Celtic,” Donnelly said. In my time, I found that you would try to establish yourself, and then they would go and buy three or four more players in your position and you’d have to do it all over again.

“It’s not an easy task for him, but he’s excelling at it at the moment. He’s one of the top men.

“I said earlier on in the season that he’s one of the first names on the teamsheet. He had a little dip, but now he’s back.

“These are the type of players that if we can get them firing for Scotland, it gets me excited about the qualification group.”