Malky Mackay has insisted the squad he’s picked for Thursday night’s friendly with the Netherlands are playing for their international futures – not him.
Mackay is delighted to have been asked to take charge of Scotland as the hunt for a successor for Gordon Strachan goes on. But he is adamant he’ll return to his “day job” as the SFA’s performance director when that process comes to an end.
However, he insisted that meantime it is important Scotland begin building towards the start of the Euro 2020 campaign, laying down the challenge to the host of youngsters he’s introduced to the set-up to prove they are worthy of pulling on a dark blue jersey.
“I’ve seen young Scottish players who just need a little bit of help. They just need a wee hand up, because you are looking at raw talent with a desire to do well.
“They just need to know how, they just have to unlock that door. It’s the job of Scottish managers and the job of experts I bring in to help them do that.
“There are certainly attributes there when you think ‘yeah, you could be a player’. There’s a variety of them in this squad who are young, fresh and talented. Look at John McGinn, Ryan Christie, Ryan Fraser, Callum McGregor. All young, gifted footballers. It’s about giving them the confidence to say ‘you are an international footballer, you can play at this level’.
“It’s up to them to go and do it, but I’ve got to give them the confidence to want to go and try things, as well as having the tactical discipline to be back into certain areas at certain times against international players.”
Mackay has named a fair number of home-based players for Pittodrie, but he doesn’t care which side of the Border they are playing on, saying: “It’s about looking at youngsters and feeling them out. It’s a friendly, but it’s not. I expect us to go and try and beat the Netherlands.
“We’ve got four games now before a qualifier, so the players are auditioning for the chance to go on and win 50 caps. It gives them a little intro into international football, albeit a hell of an intro because it’s the Netherlands.”
However, Mackay was adamant it’s all about the long-term future of the players not him, claiming that to say he was not ruling himself of being the next Scotland manager by interpreting what he said when he unveiled the squad was wrong.
He said: “There’s been a lot written about this in the last week, and it’s been quite funny in a sense. I’ve got a job. I’m the performance director of Scotland. I’m very proud and immensely humbled to be asked to come in here and do this, massively so.
“The importance of what I’ve been asked to do is to carry us forward on towards a campaign to get us ready for Euro 2020. I didn’t want to give out any messages that I was just in here to open the doors and look after the team for the week because that spills over into the players.
“They need to see there is a professionalism, that they care coming here and it’s all running well and there’s someone in charge who knows what they are doing.
“I’m going to make sure that I create that for them, but anyone else who wants to take any other aspect from that then that’s up to them. I’ve got my job as performance director and that’s what I’m going back to once this finishes but obviously I’m very proud to be doing this job.
“It’s one that I know well, although not at international level. I’ve managed against international players and managers in the Premier League in England, so it’s one I’m comfortable in.
“This is the job I’m doing for the association [the SFA] at the moment, and that’s why they asked me to do it.”