Aberdeen’s Mikey Devlin admits he’s been frustrated with his form in the second half of the season.
But the Dons defender is thrilled to have the chance to finally make his Scotland bow.
Devlin has been selected by new national team boss Steve Clarke for the European Championship qualifiers against Cyprus at Hampden on Saturday and Belgium in Brussels on Tuesday.
After a bright start to the season with the Reds, the 25-year-old looked set to make his international debut in the November UEFA Nations League double-header against Albania and Israel under former boss Alex McLeish.
But a foot injury sustained in training ended those hopes and kept Devlin on the sidelines until February.
Since his return, the former Hamilton Accies player has only started five games and his form hasn’t been to the same level as before the injury.
Devlin said: “The last time I was involved it ended prematurely. I was excited – at club level, things were going well.
“But what better way to end the season than being involved with the national team?
“I rolled my ankle and it took a bit of time to get to the bottom of it. I went on to miss three months for my club just before the League Cup final, which was gutting.
“It can be challenging, probably because you understand the importance of coming through a couple of bad injuries.
“Stepping up to a club like Aberdeen was great for me and the call-up was a bit before I expected it.
“But it looked like a great opportunity for me and Scott McKenna to go and play.
“Having come through two bad knee injuries, thinking this is a brilliant opportunity I’ve worked towards, all of a sudden for it to get cut short with an innocuous injury.
“I’ve been through enough disappointments that you just get on with it.
“Any footballer needs mental strength – injuries are part and parcel of what we do.
“You have enough ups and downs being fit – results, change of manager, getting released – football is mentally challenging. Injuries come along with that.
“I’ve had the example before, with Graeme Shinnie, Gary Mackay-Steven, McKenna – if you’re playing well for Aberdeen, there are eyes on you.
“First and foremost, you need to do your job and we’ve all managed to do that this season, which has led to us being called up.
“It’s been frustrating (his recent form). Probably more at myself than anything. I’ve had enough game-time, had I reached that level of performance where I’d be playing week in, week out.
“There have been mistakes and not managing to get where I expect to myself. But that’s the challenge that comes with an injury and killing momentum.
“You have to keep working hard and remember the principles that got you to that point.
“Not getting too down when things aren’t going too well and not getting too up when things kick on again.
“When I got the call, I was over the moon to be involved. As a boy, it’s a dream to play for the national team and the last few months haven’t changed that.
“It’s an honour every time you get the opportunity, especially with it being the gaffer’s first squad.”
In the low moments, Devlin has turned to the support network around him to keep his spirits up – among those people are Dons team-mate and housemate McKenna, who is also in the Scotland squad.
Devlin added: “I turn to my family and friends. I stay with big Scott McKenna – looking after him is a full-time job.
“I’m very lucky to have positive family around me and without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“Scott’s been brilliant for us. He’s very laid-back, whereas I’m a bit more of a thinker and worrier.
“That translates to how he performs on the pitch.
“He’s had a meteoric rise in the last 18 months and he takes it all in his stride.
“I see that day to day, that’s how he trains and lives.
“He’s been a great example to me.
“We’re pretty chilled, we go to training, have a coffee, go home and cook.
“With Scotty’s background, where he came from, he was on loan at Ayr United and came back and took his opportunity.
“Each test he seems to pass with flying colours.
“He’s a brilliant lad with all the ability in the world. He’ll play at whatever level he wants to.”