Ryan Porteous wasn’t even born the last time Scotland qualified for a major tournament in 1998, but having been starved of such memorable occasions growing up, he is revelling in the realisation that he could be asked to play a part in ending the country’s footballing exile.
Included in Steve Clarke’s squad for the upcoming play-offs against Israel and then, hopefully, either Norway or Serbia, the Hibs defender is well aware of the prize on offer and would love to book a place at next summer’s Euros.
“This is probably the biggest game Scotland have had in over 20 years,” acknowledged the 21-year-old, who is striving to build on his call ups by actually grabbing his first full cap and delivering on the national dream. “Everybody knows what is at stake, the pressure is on. But, the quality in the team is there, we have some real good players and hopefully we can get the job done.
“It would be a big opportunity and I would look at it as a special moment for me, to get my first cap, and you need to go and put a good performance in. It is a big game, but we play big games every week and hopefully this one won’t be too different.”
The Scotland boss has already spoken about creating history and for Porteous, and others who are too young to remember the exploits of the men who walked out against Brazil in the opening game of France 98 or the men who went before them, it is a chance to bring things bang up to date.
“You’re a bit jealous when you see people who have been away, playing for Scotland at Euros or World Cups. I’ve seen footage of these games and it’s great to see. That’s the kind of thing you want.”
Instead, his generation have had to be satisfied with a seat on the outside, looking in as the game’s grandest jamborees attracted worldwide attention.
“When everyone else was at the Euros a few years ago, we were supporting any team that was playing England. But, this time, hopefully people will be supporting us rather than that.
We’re in a good place right now, we have good players and hopefully we can get the job done.”
Viewed as an uncompromising and driven competitor, his ambitions for club and country have seen him mature quickly, according to Hibs boss Jack Ross, who has told the player not to be content to simply meet up with the Scotland squad and make up the numbers.
A consistent performer in a Easter Road side that has kicked off the season in decent form, and welcome Hamilton to Leith tonight, Porteous has already benefited from being part of the full international set-up.
Past squad gatherings have served as an eye-opener in terms of the intensity and consistency of training demands, while a ringside view of first team international competition has given the player who has graduated through the Scotland age groups, something to target. Having absorbed it all, he is backing himself to continue on an upward trajectory, and he is not the only one.
“I am fortunate in that I get to work with players every single day and I get to know them,” explained Hibs gaffer, Ross. “Although there is some opinion on him and how he is as a player, it is so far removed from reality. He is aggressive and competitive but he is a centre half!
“I think when you play in that area of the pitch you have to be like that. Defensively, full stop, you have to be that way as a player and as a team and sometimes people assume aggression is a bad thing, it’s not, it can be a positive thing as well.”
Evolving as a player, he has addressed weaknesses, whether that be bulking up to combat his relatively smaller stature compared to some modern day centre-backs, and working on his focus.
“That was more of an issue for me,” conceded his manager. “Being clear-headed and focused as much as possible. He has still got a bit to go with that because, like any young player, he can still get a little foggy.
“But by and large he has been really good and I think that has been reflected in terms of his stats, how few fouls he has conceded, the number of yellow cards. You can’t be reckless and have that type of record.
“He is also very conscientious about his game. He is hard on himself, cares a lot about getting better and is trying to learn as much as he can. He is fortunate here with some of the senior players he has roundabout him and as a staff we are helping him as well.”
Spending times looking back through archived clips with assistant manager John Potter, he has also benefited from the insight of former colleagues, such as his Scotland room-mate John McGinn, who was happy to take him under their wing.
“I know I am biased because I know him [Porteous] and I’m working with him every day and I am fond of him but it is pleasing to see the maturity he has shown and where that is taking him at the moment,” added Ross
“We have spoken about his aggression and competitiveness but he is actually a really good footballer as well. That is one of the things about him, he can pass the ball and use the ball well, so he has got a lot of attributes that make him a good fit, even at that level.”