Dundee United striker Marc McNulty sees a path to the Euros for himself but he knows it runs through Tannadice.
The striker screamed with joy along with the rest of the nation when Scotland qualified for next summer’s European Championships thanks to their penalty shootout success against Serbia.
However, having been on the pitch for the Scots as recently as March of last year it is only natural that McNulty felt a touch of envy as his former squad mates danced around the Belgrade dressing room to Yes Sir, I Can Boogie.
In order to get back into contention for his country, McNulty is well aware that he will need to do well enough for his club to make Scotland coach Steve Clarke pay attention.
‘I am still a fan’
McNulty, who will be going for goals for United when they host Hamilton in the Premiership today, said of Scotland’s qualification: “It has been brilliant for everyone, hasn’t it?
“We’re all still on a high.
“Being a Scotland supporter, as I am, it has been amazing, even when you are not directly involved.
“I am still a fan and was screaming out my house when we qualified. My missus told me to be quiet because I’d woken up the little one.
“It has been great for the country and even the players at every club, who have not been in the set-up, have been wanting the Scotland boys to do well.
“You would be lying if you said you didn’t want to be a part of that. Who wouldn’t?
“When you saw the celebrations…
“Even the guys who were not on the pitch but maybe sitting in the stand in Belgrade, you could see what it meant to them.
“It would have been brilliant to have been there but these are things that you can still hope for.
“Look, it’s a long time to the Euros and I am just concentrating on Dundee United. If I am playing well here and being the best I can be then that would give me the greatest chance of experiencing something like that.
“At the minute, I have not been in the squad and I know my form has not been good enough to get in. I’m also not going to say: ‘Oh I should be in the squad or doing this or that.’
“But these things happen in football and it has happened before for me.
“I got into the squad when I was Hibs and did well so if I concentrate on working hard at United and score some goals, help win games and get the team as high up the league as possible then there might be an opportunity.”
Hard work worth it
McNulty feels the home fans – or at least those watching from home – will see the real him this afternoon thanks to some serious grafting to get match fit.
He explained: “I’ve had to do a gruelling schedule with the fitness coach and it’s one of the most difficult things I have done in terms of pre-season work.
“I had been training away myself but it was quite a long lockdown for me.
“Obviously I was at Hibs at the start of lockdown and never went back to Reading until about August. So it was quite some time.
“I kept myself going, to be fair, but when you play matches and stuff it is difficult.
“I have had a few matches now and with each game I feel I am getting sharper and fitter.
“Honestly, I have felt sorry for the guys who are injured and we’ve been joking that no one at the club wants to get injured because they know how much running they will have to do when they are coming back.
“Look, you do it and you feel really good for it.
“As a group we are very fit boys.”
What United supporters tuning in remotely to the match are also likely to see is a more attack-minded performance form the team than of late.
McNulty certainly hopes so, saying: “The lads have been doing brilliantly to keep clean sheets and pick up some good points.
“If I am being selfish in a way, though, we have not really been that positive in terms of creating chances and scoring goals.
“Obviously, as a striker you want to be creating and scoring.
“There hasn’t been a lot of that, which is a bit frustrating, but we have built a strong base with a defensive unit that has been playing well and keeping clean sheets.
“The next thing now is to move it forward and be a little bit more aggressive in terms of getting in the box and final third areas.
“I have trained with him and he is a quality player. It is great to have the chance of play alongside someone like him who is also keen to get goals and create chances.
“Hopefully, we can complement each other and show the fans that because we maybe haven’t been showing that positivity in the final third since I’ve come to club.”
Looking up the way
Victory would see United open up a 13-point gap on Accies, who prop up the table on just seven points.
McNulty added: “That would be amazing but I’m looking up the way rather than down.
“I just think as a Dundee United player you shouldn’t be looking behind you.
“Some people do mention that it’s our first season back in the league but you have to set your standards and your targets high.
“You have to keep looking up if you can, it doesn’t matter if you are near the bottom of the table or sitting in second spot. You should always be trying to win games and catch whoever is above you.
“This is a big game for the club because we can push on if we get the win.”