THE European Cup Winners’ Cup triumph that Alex McLeish helped Aberdeen record back in 1983 was the pinnacle of his playing career and very possibly the 40 or so years he has been involved in professional football. Would he, though, have been part of it if the Pittodrie club had employed the sports scientists, performance analysts and conditioning coaches who proliferate the modern game. He has his doubts.

McLeish was pressed for his thoughts yesterday on the various injuries and ailments which had deprived him the services of a plethora of experienced and talented players for his Scotland side’s disastrous opening Euro 2020 qualifier against Kazakhstan on Thursday night as he prepared for the Group I game against San Marino here this afternoon.

The 60-year-old, who is under mounting pressure following the dire 3-0 defeat in Nursultan, conceded he has been struck by the increased power that clubs and their medical staff have to prevent their highly-paid employees from making themselves available for international duty during his second spell in charge of his country. He confessed that was making his job more problematic than it had been in his first stint in the dugout back in 2007.

“We are guided by the medical team,” he said. “They are so important nowadays. If they say to us a player is out I can’t ask to talk to him to try and persuade him. He’s out and that’s it. It’s a firm decision. It’s not one where I can bring him in by hook or by crook.

“I’ve got to abide by what they say. So there is no room for debate on that. They have become more powerful, in terms of the clubs and the medical rules they would give to international teams. That has definitely changed. The medical side of things is a huge factor there’s no doubt. If Graeme Jones (head of high performance) and the doc (John MacLean) come to me and say we can't take a player for a certain reason, that’s the way it is.”

Jordan Archer, Barry Bannan, Ryan Christie, Craig Gordon, Leigh Griffiths, Steven Fletcher, Ryan Fraser, Charlie Mulgrew, Steven Naismith, Callum Paterson, Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney all missed out on Thursday night for different reasons. But Fraser and Paterson weren’t allowed to play on the plastic pitch by their clubs.

When it was suggested that clubs advising players against turning up must complicate his efforts, McLeish replied: “Tell me about it! It’s definitely something that’s worth debating.”

It certainly isn’t like it was back in his heyday. The former centre half recalled how he had injured his back doing some work at his house in the build-up to that momentous meeting with Real Madrid in the Nya Ullevi and was fortunate to be involved. He had to take extreme measures, including going to the mattresses, in order to take his place in Alex Ferguson’s side. Even then, he was highly fortunate to start.

“It’s definitely different to when I played,” he said. “We would go in there with some injuries. I was even telling Kieran (Tierney) the other night that I had a back problem going into the Gothenburg final. But we didn't have medicals. I'd probably be ruled out nowadays and I probably wouldn't have got that medal.

“A couple of weeks before the final we were having work done in the back garden in Aberdeen, and I bought paving stones. I carried them around the back and I felt my back go. The guy who dropped them off was like ‘you’re meant to roll them, ya mug!’ Anyway, for the next ten days I needed intense treatment.

“I had to tell Fergie what I’d done and of course the response wasn’t favourable. But I worked really hard to get fit. There was no way I was going to miss the final. For the two nights before the game I actually slept with the mattress on the floor. Had we had a sports scientist I wouldn’t have played.

“Sometimes way back in the day I would have said: ‘I shouldn’t have played in that game’. That was probably after I had a stinker! Other times I would say: ‘I’m glad I played’. But these days the clubs are the most important in terms of paying the players’ wages.”

McLeish revealed he had contemplated invoking the FIFA five day rule – which prevents an individual from playing for that period of time after the end of the international break if doesn’t comply with a call-up – in the past and would consider it in future if he feels it is justified. “We will do it if we feel we have a good case,” he said. “We did speak about it recently, but we decided it wasn’t the right situation to do it. Maxy (SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell) would have been involved in with with Jonesy too. We thought about it, but used common sense in the end. And it was the right thing to do at the time."

McLeish will not ostracise players who fail to turn up as he attempts to recover from that calamitous Kazakhstan reverse in the coming months and secure qualification for a major tournament for the first time since way back at France ’98.

“If I can make Scotland better with these guys, I'm not going to cut my nose off to spite my face,” he said. “I’m not in this for Alex McLeish. I've been through a lot of highs and lows, had a fair bit of success, but been knocked down a few times as well, with the resilience to get back up. And that's where we are again so there's no way I'd do something that I thought didn't help the national team.”