Scott McKenna insists Scotland don’t want to be relying on their play-off back-up to get to Euro 2020.
The national team were set to get their qualifying campaign for next year’s European Championships under way against Kazakhstan this afternoon.
After today’s clash in Astana, the Dark Blues will take on San Marino on Sunday in Serravalle to complete the opening Group I double header.
Alex McLeish’s men have already secured a play-off spot in their bid to qualify for the Euros as a result of winning UEFA Nations League group C1 last year.
However, Aberdeen defender McKenna doesn’t want to have to rely on that back-up plan.
The 22-year-old travelled to Astana with the Scotland squad despite thigh tightness which was bothering him during the Dons’ 1-1 draw with Livingston on Saturday.
It is likely he will miss out today but could be fit enough for San Marino at the weekend.
At the start of the qualifying group – which also contains Belgium, Russia and Cyprus – McKenna is aiming for a place in the top two to qualify automatically for the Euros.
The Reds defender said: “There has been a feelgood factor around the national team.
“We did well in the Nations League and managed to finish top.
“That means a play-off spot is guaranteed, but we want to do as well as we can in this qualifying group.
“We would like to avoid the play-off spot if we can by qualifying automatically.
“It is good to have the back-up, but it’s not something we want to relying on or thinking about.
“I’ve been involved in the past and it’s just up to me to try to keep my place through my performances.”
Scotland jetted out to Kazakhstan late on Sunday night.
The idea being to give the squad four days to acclimatise to their new environment before facing the Kazakhs, with the temperature set to be at zero degrees celsius when the game gets underway at 9pm local time today.
In the past a criticism thrown at the SFA has been that the logistical arrangements for long-distance away trips haven’t helped the team.
However, McKenna doesn’t believe that can be used as an excuse this time should the Scots fail to perform in Astana.
Since McLeish’s return as manager in place of fellow Gothenburg Great Gordon Strachan in February of last year there has been a greater emphasis on sports science and the sport scientists working with the SFA have been heavily involved in the planning of this trip.
McKenna added: “The sports scientists and staff with Scotland have dealt with the logistics of it.
“They have been dealing with all the stuff away from football so I’m sure it will be a smooth and seamless trip and as players we won’t have any issues.
“I couldn’t comment about the past because I have only been involved under Alex McLeish.
“He was the one that picked me for Scotland and I’m grateful to him for that.
“Scotland is similar to club level in that wherever you are going whether it is Aberdeen or the national team they do everything they can to look after you and make it as easy as possible to perform.”
Since breaking into the Aberdeen first-team in September 2017 it has been almost continual tradjectory upwards for McKenna.
Strong performances have seen him touted with big-money moves to England and his stock has helped rise due to promising displays for Scotland.
He has won eight caps since making his debut last March in the first game of McLeish’s second spell in charge, a 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica.
McKenna also captained the national side last summer against Mexico in the Azteca Stadium (1-0 loss) and he believes international experience helps him improve while playing for the Dons.
He said: “I think playing with Scotland does help you at club level.
“It gives you confidence to be playing for the national team and you come back to your club full of confidence and try to take that into your club performances.”