FORGET all that stuff about 500 miles. Scotland will have to travel approximately eight times that just to reach Astana for stage one of their European Championship qualifying campaign – then another 5500 miles to reach Rimini for the second half of the double header against San Marino.

By the time they return from these two matches, the round trip will have taken them the best part of 10,000 miles back and forth across numerous time zones. And while there are seven clear days before club duties resume, it probably doesn’t help much that the schedule of fixtures that first weekend back includes the small matter of an Old Firm match at Celtic Park.

For those with long memories, it is all wearily reminiscent of the gruelling journey to Tbilisi back in October 2007 during Alex McLeish’s previous stint as manager, an evening when the Scots went down 2-0 to an experimental Georgia side, minus mainstays Scott Brown, Lee McCulloch and Alan Hutton, all three of whom just happened to return fit and well for an Old Firm match the following weekend.

While McLeish doesn’t expect any special favours from club managers, what he does expect is his players to make themselves available. He insists that advancements in sports science mean that they can rest safe in the knowledge that players will never be risked – even if the match is taking place on the artificial surface of the 30,000-capacity Astana Arena, a venue where Celtic played Astana in a Champions League qualifier earlier this season.

“I haven’t sat down with the clubs or appealed to them in newspapers to be good to the national manager or Scotland as a whole,” said McLeish.

“But at this time of the season, we aren’t the only country to have this situation. We will pick the squad and cross the bridge when we come to it.

“Last year we went to South America and I made a lot of concessions. Every manager wants to look after his own bag, but we expect to pick the players and see where it goes from there. I’m not expecting the likes of Neil Lennon, Stevie Gerrard, Steve Clarke or Craig Levein to do me a favour, but I’ll pick the squad and expect everyone to be there.

“Obviously, the Old Firm game is immediately after our match against San Marino, but we’ll look after the players – we would do that, anyway. There’s no hiding place now because we have the performance analysts and, when players hit the red lines, that’s when we take them out. You used to say: ‘He looks all right so we’ll just play him’ but we don’t take risks with anyone nowadays.

“When we had all the call-offs the last time, people were getting paranoid about it and there were three players who might have started for us who called off, but they were all genuine call-offs and a lot of that was down to the advice from the performance guys saying: ‘He isn’t going to be able to play’.”

As for Astana, a key part of the plans will be keeping the players operating on British time. It might not be ideal to play on an artificial surface, but with temperatures out in Kazakhstan this week sitting at minus seven degrees, that might be the best thing.

“It’s the only training surface we will be able to play on out there,” said McLeish. “It is still going to be pretty wintry. “We arrive there Monday morning, so we will be training Tuesday, Wednesday. It will be Astroturf and maybe by the time we get on it the guys will be used to it.

“There has been a lot of dialogue with the performance guys and different clubs. We will stay on British time during our stay in Kazakhstan. That sounds a bit weird, but that is how people travelling there approach it.

“We had guys out there, including Graeme Jones our performance head, for a few days. They tried to change to Kazakh time and their bodies were all over the place.”

Whether he makes it into the final squad or not, McLeish said that Aberdeen’s Lewis Ferguson was one name which is under discussion.

“I am not closing the door to anybody,” said McLeish. “Lewis is amongst many we have discussed upstairs and are watching constantly.

“Every week we are watching the games and looking at the standards.

If we picked everybody, Kazakhstan would have to play 300.”