EVERYONE in this country believes they qualified to be Scotland manager but only one man has the job at any given time.

Those who covet Alex McLeish’s job would not be interested in setting up training or analysing opposition. You know, the boring stuff. Rather, they want to pick the team. It has always been thus.

McLeish has three friendly games, or challenge matches as they are called these days, against Peru, Mexico and Belgium before Albania come to Hampden on September 10 for the first game in the new-look and ever-so-slightly confusing UEFA Nations League.

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That first ‘proper’ fixture will come around soon enough. The manager must get that first team selection spot-on for the Albanian match. As the old saying almost goes, second first impressions really do count.

At Hampden Park yesterday, McLeish revealed that while he had not completely settled on a starting eleven, he pretty much knew the bulk of his team which will begin of qualification, we all hope, for the European Championships.

He wasn’t for dropping any hints except that he was particularly pleased to see Leigh Griffiths back fit again. The Celtic striker has also made it public knowledge that would be more than happy to postpone his holiday for international duty, which went down well with Big Eck.

Let’s have some fun.

For what it’s worth, here is my prediction of what McLeish’s first team might be in five months’ time, injuries permitting, based on reading between lines and a good old stab in the dark.

In a fluid 3-5-1-1, my guess is; McGregor: McKenna, Mulgrew, Tierney; Forrest, McGinn, Armstrong, Cairney, Robertson; McGregor; Griffiths.

Asked if he knew his team for the start of the qualifiers, McLeish admitted: “I am not far away from that. Getting a nucleus is normally seven or eight players. Then you flesh it around them depending on availability.

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‘I am looking forward to seeing Griffiths getting back to fitness again. He came on last week and looked sharp It was good to hear him saying he wanted to play for Scotland because we want him to play for Scotland as well.”

There are places to be won and these next three games, while not competitive, are vital in terms of building up to when it all begins for real.

Both Peru and Mexico are heading to the World Cup so in theory these should be decent games in a certain testing environment.

“In essence, we are the warm-up team for these guys going to the World Cup but we don’t want to be going there just as a bit of fodder,” said McLeish.

“We want to go there and recognise that this is the level we want to get to, that we want to playing against teams of this level at the next World Cup or European Championship. That’s what I want to go mob-handed.

“It will be Peru’s last game before heading off and I think they are talking about something like 100,000 being there. It will be a phenomenal atmosphere. It’s something we would like everyone to relish and embrace.”

Two years ago, Gordon Strachan’s Scotland faced Italy and France before those two countries went to the European Championships. The Scots had one shot on target over two games.

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Again, our players are not preparing for a major tournament which means, understandably, that they were nowhere near the intensity of players getting themselves set for proper football.

McLeish, however, believes that won’t be a worry for him because the players will want to impress the new gaffer.

He said: “It’s early in my tenure as Scotland coach again. I think players will maybe be feeling they have to prove to the manager that they are ready for these championships.

“When I hear guys like Griffiths and others say they want to play for Scotland it is music to our ears.

“Why shouldn’t you want to play for Scotland? Of course you should. It is one of the greatest feelings in your life to play for your national team.

So, did Sir Alex Ferguson ever pull McLeish, who won 76 caps, from a squad during their years together ay Aberdeen?

“I don’t think so. We wanted to play the games and amass the caps. You didn’t want to be a one-cap wonder.

“We were always on call for Scotland. I think we were miffed when we were left out.”

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McLeish will have something to work with if, as he says, the players want to play for their country even in an ill-thought out end of season tour such as this one, and the likes of Kieran Tierney, Andy Robertson and Callum McGregor continue to improve.

“Over the past four or five years we have been much-maligned in terms of the quality or lack of quality that the Scottish league has shown, but, genuinely , over the last couple of years there has been a resurgence of good young players,” said Scotland’s fourth most capped player of all time.

“Okay, they are not getting the same tests they would down south or perhaps in top European leagues but I feel having what I saw in the training camp that none of our players looked out of their depth.

“That gives you a bit of belief that these guys can improve.”

“The Celtic boys took a couple of beatings in Europe but they have certainly shown the improvement they have made because of their participation in the Champions League over the past few years.

“That is a good indication of the progress that has been made.”