Relentless in the pursuit of success, Steve Clarke will still demand improvement from Scotland, even if his squad deliver the biggest result of a generation.
National manager Clarke will tonight bid to secure qualification to the finals of a major tournament for the first time since the 1998 World Cup.
Defeat Serbia in the Euro 2020 play-off final in Belgrade tonight and Scotland will secure a spot at the tournament next summer.
With Scotland on its knees when he took over last year, Clarke has masterminded a resurrection in the nation’s fortunes and will face Serbia with the momentum of eight games undefeated.
Yet, even if Scotland secure the most significant result in more than 20 years, Clarke insists there must be more to come.
He said: “We are still a work in progress even though we go into this game eight games unbeaten.
“That’s where we wanted to be and we’ve managed to do that.
“But I’m not getting carried away and thinking we’ve cracked it. Even if we win the game in Serbia, we won’t have cracked it.
“We’ll still have to keep improving with this group of players that we’ve got.”
Ahead of a one-off away game with so much at stake, it would be disingenuous for Clarke to suggest there are no nerves.
However he, and his squad, will keep them in check.
He said: “I’ve never gone into a game of football where you don’t have that nervous feeling, whether you’re player or a manager.
“It’s always there on match day.
“Before that you just have to prepare yourself properly and we have prepared as well as we can.
“It’s difficult for me as a manager to get carried away with the hype. Players see through you if you’re being false.
“If you are nervous and you don’t show it they’ll see that you’re hiding it.
“In all honesty, as we approach the game I’m perfectly calm.
“We spoke about getting to this match in the best shape possible, with a good bit of positivity around us, and we’ve done that.
“You can see that with the public, everyone’s really positive about it – and hopefully we do ourselves justice on the night.”
Should Scotland triumph in Belgrade tonight that positivity would rocket through the stratosphere and continue to rise ahead of the summer Euros.
If Clarke could become the first manager since Craig Brown (1998) to lead the Scots to a major final he would take on national hero status. Would he be comfortable with that?
Clarke said: “No, I’ve never been one to covet that.
“Even as a player I liked to be a wee bit under the radar.
“I like to be appreciated by the people around about me.
“They are the people that I work with and if I get that respect and that appreciation then that is good enough for me.”
Serbia boast quality such as Ajax captain Dusan Tadic, Aleksandar Kolarov (Inter Milan) and Luka Jovic (Real Madrid). However, Clarke has identified weaknesses he aims to exploit.
He said: “Serbia weren’t particularly great in the lead-up to the Norway game (2-1 semi-final win), but when the big one came around in Oslo they produced their best performance in five or six games.
“So we know to expect their best performance, their best players and their best team.
“We have to be ready for that. But we have identified one or two things that can maybe cause them a problem and hopefully people will see that tonight.”
Should Scotland end more than two decades of qualification misery tonight, there will be little time for celebration for Clarke.
Attention will quickly switch to the upcoming Nations League games against Slovakia on Sunday and Israel on Wednesday.
Asked what he would do should the Scots win, he said: “I might relax a little bit on the Thursday night or Friday morning, then we will immediately be on to the Slovakia game because we need a big result in that as well.
“We want to win that Nations League section and we want to get promotion to the A group.
“So I might be happy for a little while, but then I will be back to my miserable self.”