Steven Naismith insists the belief Gordon Strachan has in the Scotland players has underpinned the national team’s recent resurgence.
The Scots won three of their last four 2014 World Cup qualifiers, albeit that return to form came after Strachan took over from Craig Levein when the chances of making the finals in Brazil next summer were all but over.
The Everton forward and the rest of the Scotland players will have to wait for the best part of a year until the 2016 European Championship qualifiers begin and in the meantime will play a series of challenge matches starting with the visit of the USA to Hampden Park tomorrow, followed by an away game in Norway next Tuesday.
Naismith, 27, who was in Glasgow yesterday to help launch an initiative with Glasgow’s Helping Heroes, construction firm City Building, and Royal Strathclyde Blindcraft Industries which will help injured war veterans back to work, said: “The manager has done well in finding players who were not on the radar. Ikechi Anya came in and done really well and there are a few others.
“But the biggest thing he has given us is the freedom to go and play. We have quality players going forward and that is what he has done, given us the belief.
“If someone does try a forward pass and it doesn’t come off, he is not at the sidelines shouting his head off or anything like that, he is encouraging you to go again. He has been thorough in training with what he wants and the players are definitely picking it up.”
The former Kilmarnock and Rangers player, however, admits the real test will come when the Euro qualifiers begin next year.
“It is important because the squad is getting to the mid-to-late 20s stage,” he said.
“You have got to be hitting your peak at some point and that has to come from now.
“We have started from a good base and it has got to continue.
“The results we have had have been brilliant. We have moved on a long way but the real test will be when the Euros start and we have to be ready.”
Scotland will be without Blackburn Rovers forward Jordan Rhodes for the matches after he pulled out of the squad through injury. Leeds forward Ross McCormack – scorer of all four goals in his club’s 4-2 win at Charlton last weekend – has been drafted in to the squad as a replacement.