The European Championship is almost upon us and there are reasons to be confident Scotland can get out of their group.
In eight World Cups and two Euros, the national team has never previously made it beyond the group stage of a major tournament.
However, Steve Clarke’s side are in a position to break that duck.
Looking at the development of the team over the past couple of years, the age structure and the confidence that has been built up mean I’m optimistic.
Reasons to be hopeful
All the players in the squad have been playing at a high level week-in, week-out.
We’re talking about players like Andy Robertson, Scott McTominay, Kieran Tierney, Billy Gilmour, John McGinn, Ryan Fraser, Stuart Armstrong and Che Adams playing for big clubs in the English Premier League.
Others like Lyndon Dykes, Scott McKenna and David Marshall are playing in the English Championship.
And the Scottish-based players are also playing at a high level.
There is also a good core of experience with a number of the squad in the 20s, 30s or 40s in terms of the number of caps.
So when you put all that together there are reasons for optimism.
When you look back on us not getting out of the group at tournaments, we have been so close on so many occasions.
It’s been goal difference and fine margins that have gone against us.
Maybe this will be the time when we’re on the right side of those fine margins.
It won’t be easy by any means in Group D, but there are reasons to be positive.
England have looked a bit lacklustre and Gareth Southgate still seems to be searching for his best side.
The Czech Republic have been whacked 4-0 by Italy during their build-up and are a side Scotland have beaten not so long ago.
Croatia have shown themselves to be tournament regulars who can are capable of getting to the latter stages.
It won’t be easy, but it’s not an insurmountable task to get out of the group.
We don’t want to be over-confident, but having watched the development under Clarke we are definitely capable of progressing.
Build-up has been promising
Scotland have completed their build-up to the Euros with a 1-0 friendly win over Luxembourg and a 2-2 draw with the Netherlands.
I think the Dark Blues are in a good place ahead of the Euros.
We saw enough, particularly against the Dutch, to suggest that when we face good quality opposition we have a shape and a style to stifle the opposition.
But not just to shut down the opposition, but cause them problems going the other way.
Since Clarke was appointed he has brought an organisation, discipline and belief defensively, as well as ensuring Scotland carry a threat going forward.
That’s a good balance to have at international level.
Clarke had it at Kilmarnock where he turned a group of players into a side that believed they could compete with Rangers and Celtic.
He’s on a similar path at international level.
The national team doesn’t have too many matches where we dominate possession.
In the Euros, I think it will be the case where Scotland’s opponents have more of the ball and the Dark Blues are playing off them, stifling them and trying to counter.
Young players have done well
The introduction of young players Billy Gilmour, David Turnbull and Nathan Patterson over the two games was really encouraging.
All three of them did well and that gives you hope for the future.
But even in the present it puts good pressure on the senior players, because they know there are young players who are ready to step in and do a job.
It’s a warning to the senior players that if they don’t perform there are other players waiting in the wings ready to take their attitude.
Overall, it’s a very positive position to be in and I think everyone involved will go into the tournament with a bit of confidence.