Scott McKenna never previously paid much attention to major tournaments but the Scotland defender insists he is fully tuned in to Euro 2020 now as Steve Clarke’s side get set to end the nation’s finals blackout.
Nottingham Forrest centre-back McKenna was still in nappies the last time the Scots appeared on one of football’s biggest stages at the 1998 World Cup.
So the 24-year-old has spent most of his life feeling left out when the big summer action kicked-off on his TV screen.
But this time he hopes to be at the heart of the action, starting with Monday’s Group D opener against the Czech Republic.
And he hopes the nation’s school children will get the chance to embrace the Euros fever he was denied as a youngster.
“I’ve probably not paid too much attention to them because Scotland haven’t been there,” said the former Aberdeen ace when asked to recall his favourite tournament memory at the Scots’ training camp near Darlington.
“I’ve obviously watched the games but without supporting a team really.
“But now to be here and to be part of it, I’m absolutely delighted and hopefully we can do as well as possible.
“The excitement levels are definitely building. When we turned up here on Wednesday night, there was the security, the gift boxes from the captain, all the media around – you can see things have really stepped up.
“When we were in Spain last week, things were quite relaxed and the boys were chilled out. Now we’re here we can tell it’s the real deal and it’s a major tournament.
“Every school should be letting the kids watch these games.
“I remember during some World Cups and European Championships we’d be allowed in the afternoon to watch a random game.
“But especially because it’s Scotland, every school should be letting the kids watch it.”
Clarke has a couple of youngsters who are not long out of the classrooms themselves having called up Billy Gilmour and Nathan Patterson.
And McKenna has been impressed by what he has learned of the Chelsea midfielder and his former Rangers academy team-mate so far.
“We’re missing big players from the night we qualified in Kenny McLean and Ryan Jack,” he said. “But we’ve also brought in good quality – Billy Gilmour, Nathan Patterson, David Turnbull.
“We’ve got a little less experience from the two we’ve lost but it’s still a very, very competitive squad.
“Billy is excellent. That’s the only way I can describe him. We’ve got two Champions League winners in this squad with him and Andy Robertson. It’s incredible.
“You can see the talent he is and he’ll have a big, big future for Scotland.
“Nathan’s an excellent player too. I learned that in the first training session. He nutmegged me, sprinted past and got the ball at the other side, so he’s certainly not lacking confidence.
“When he came on against Luxembourg the other night he was excellent going forward but also excellent defensively.
“He’s another player with a big future, not only with Rangers but with Scotland too.”
And McKenna hopes those brighter days ahead will extend to the whole squad – starting next week.
Scotland have recent experience of facing the Czechs with last year’s Nations League clashes.
Covid twice played a part in Scotland’s victories and now McKenna hopes Jaroslav Silhavy’s side will be left feeling sick again at Hampden.
He said: “The Czechs are a very good opposition. We can’t read too much into the first time we played them last year because there was so many changes to their team. The second game, I thought the boys were excellent.
“But ultimately these three games are about us imposing ourselves on the opposition.
“We’ve certainly got the quality to do that and hopefully we can start on Monday.
“We have to start as well as we can. We’re not just here to make up the numbers. We’re here to leave our mark on the tournament and hopefully do really well.”