Midfielder Robert Snodgrass has opened up about his “mentally scarring” time with the Scotland squad in recent years.
Now back in the fold under new boss Steve Clarke, the 32-year-old insists his commitment to his country and the Euro 2020 campaign is unflinching and should not be questioned.
Snodgrass is in contention to earn a first cap in a year against Russia in the Group I qualifier at Hampden tomorrow.
Snodgrass has played in just one of Scotland’s last 13 games, as a sub in the 4-0 home defeat to Belgium last September.
During a troubled time for the West Ham star he appeared for international duty despite family health problems and bereavements. Understandably his priority was at home, but he still turned up for his country – and didn’t play.
He insists the lack of clarity from the previous Alex McLeish regime took its toll. Snodgrass also began to question his position within the international team.
However, he never thought about quitting on his country.
He said: “I am glad to be back.
“There was a lot which happened during the campaign which left me mentally scarred.
“I don’t want to speak about it. It happened, that’s it. I want to talk about moving forward.
“I had a situation with my family, that two of my cousins passed away. To be in the squad and be there, it’s hard because I can’t really speak about it.”
In August last year Snodgrass asked former boss McLeish to be left out of his squad for games against Belgium and Albania as his mother had been ill having suffered a stroke.
However, when Matt Phillips pulled out through injury, Snodgrass agreed to be drafted in as a replacement. Before a Nations League match the following month Snodgrass was grieving following the death of his two cousins within a short period.
For such a vital match he was assured he would play against Israel, he was not even stripped.
He was not selected for another squad after that 2-1 loss in Haifa.
He said: “Make this clear – it’s not about me not playing.
“There were loads of games I didn’t get picked for and I’d still be there for the next, backing the boys.
“It’s not a case that I’m only here if I’m playing. I never played under Strachan and I came back.
“My Scotland career hasn’t been plain sailing.
“I didn’t play under Levein to start off with but I was still there.
“Nobody can ever question my commitment to play for Scotland.
“I just want honesty. Even if you’re not playing me, just be honest with me. I’m fine with that.
“When I came in for the last campaign we had meetings about doing everything we could to make the country better.
“We put all our cards on the table and pushed for what we thought as players.
“Playing down south, we heard about England and they get paid for going away. We don’t get paid – we do it because we love it.
“There’s no one from Scotland who says ‘come and play for us and we’ll give you money’. That’s got nothing to do with it.
“We’re all here because we love playing for Scotland, there’s no other way about it.
“I’ll say to you truthfully, I don’t want be away from my three kids. But I’m here because I love playing for Scotland.
“I could use this time to spend with my family – I’m over 30 now and have done this for years – but it’s the love that drives us forward.
“And when you love something you want to try to make it better.
“Steve Clarke feels the same. He wants everything to be better.
“For the players who are coming to the back-end of our careers, we probably won’t get the benefits from it.
“But if we set the ball rolling now then the younger boys coming through will.”
McLeish ultimately paid the price for a disastrous 3-0 away Group I loss in Kazakhstan and an insipid 2-0 away defeat of minnows San Marino – days later he was axed by the SFA.
He was only 14 months into the managerial position having replaced Gordon Strachan.
Snodgrass said: “I got on really well with him (McLeish).
“I liked him and there’s nothing against him or his staff.
“It’s just certain things that were done that baffled me. I wanted to help him and the boys go forward but it didn’t work out like that.”
Clarke has taken Snodgrass back into the international set-up for qualifiers against Russia and Belgium that will make or break the bid to qualify from the traditional group route for the Euros.
Snodgrass said: “He just said to me whatever happened in the past, that is nothing to do with him. He just wanted me to come and play for Scotland.
“And I just said ‘I have never made myself unavailable for Scotland, so I want to play’.
“It is that simple.
“When you have played so many games for Scotland, it was just be honest to me.
“In the last campaign, I won’t go into it, but it wasn’t honest.
“I am not 16 any more. I am 32. I am coming to the back-end of my career and I just want people to be honest with me.
“I have always come and backed the lads, every opportunity I get, playing or not playing.
“I have played over 500 games so just be straight with me.
“He (Steve Clarke) has been straight with me.
“I won’t tell you the conversation but he has been straight with me.
“And when people are straight with you in any job, any walk of life, then you can appreciate that and have respect for that.”