Scotland defender Stephen O’Donnell has highlighted the key role Jackie McNamara played in making him an international player.
O’Donnell worked under McNamara at Partick Thistle before the manager left Firhill to take over at Dundee United in January 2013.
The Kilmarnock man admitted that even he was shocked to be handed the right wing back role at Hampden in the victory over Albania in the Nations League opener on Monday night but he revealed that McNamara was one person who thought he could hit the heights he has now reached.
O’Donnell said: “Jackie McNamara always told me and believed in me that I was capable of playing at this level.
“I thought he had lost his marbles because that was when I was 19 and just released from Celtic.
“I wasn’t too sure if I believed him but it is something he always says to me. He thinks I am better than I have been doing.
“It was maybe something that I didn’t always believe myself but the last couple of games I have played and enjoyed it.
“Hopefully, I will get more chances in the future.”
O’Donnell admitted that he didn’t think he was in line to start in the 2-0 win over Albania and was stunned when manager Alex McLeish read out his name.
He said: “I was shocked. I couldn’t really believe that I was in.
“I thought if anything if he had flattened off to a four I might have had half a chance but in a five – I couldn’t believe it.
“The manager has to pick a team. Ryan Fraser was injured, he plays in the English Premiership every week (for Bournemouth) so for me to get the opportunity, I was really grateful.
“Thankfully for myself, I was part of a winning team.”
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Modest O’Donnell doesn’t even consider himself to be a fully-fledged Scotland player yet.
He explained: “I was told when I was younger that 50 games for your club means you are a first-team footballer.
“So maybe if I can get to 10 caps then I definitely belong here.
“I just need to concentrate on Kilmarnock and hopefully get some good results then we will see where that takes me for my country. “
O’Donnell also believes that he did his chance of wearing the jersey a lot of good by going on the much-maligned summer trip to Peru and Mexico.
He added: “If I hadn’t gone there isn’t a chance I would be here now.
“I got called up at the last minute into that one and I was over the moon with it.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the trip as a whole.
“The results were disappointing but getting the experience and the chance to train with players of that standard for me was great.”