Andy Webster believes the Hampden Roar will help Scotland strike fear into their opponents in the opening FIFA World Cup 2014 Qualifying double-header next month.
The Hearts defender earned his 25th cap in an uplifting 3-1 victory against Australia at Easter Road last week and he expects a classic Hampden welcome at the home of Scottish football will help Scotland in their quest to overcome Serbia and Macedonia.
Tickets for both matches are now on public sale and Webster is relishing the possibilities ahead of the start of the Roar to Rio.
“This is the start of a new campaign and one we can really look forward to,” he said. “The supporters have been loyal throughout the years when we haven’t qualified for a major championships and the players are desperate to rectify that.
“It is a tough group; there is no obvious runaway leader and certainly no minnow. That means teams will be able to take points off of each other and it is why we must take home advantage. The big match atmosphere at Hampden is special and that can help make the difference for us.”
Webster is in the midst of a thrilling few weeks in his career, with a glamour Europa League tie for Hearts against Liverpool a precursor to the World Cup qualifiers.
After a prolonged period on the sidelines through injury, the 30-year-old intends to savour his return to the big time.
“This is why you play football. You want that test, whether it’s a Saturday or a Thursday night, whenever it may be. You want to play against the best players,” he said.
“That’s why I love playing football, it’s for these big occasions when you know you will be up against it, and you know you have to work extremely hard and be on your game to have any chance, whether it is an individual thing or as a team.
“I think I appreciate it more after everything that’s happened. When you see the other side of it you don’t taking things for granted.
“When you’re not having the best of times you think to yourself, ‘Come on, get back to the level where you’re testing yourself against the best’ and that keeps you motivated.”
With Jordan Rhodes and Ross McCormack coming to the fore at Easter Road, Webster is convinced Craig Levein has cultivated healthy competition.
“The squad is probably the strongest I’ve seen it since I’ve been involved,” he said. “A lot of these boys are playing Premier League football in England week in, week out and the boys who have been missing are top-quality players as well. From a squad point of view it’s very strong and the standard of player has definitely improved.
“You feel comfortable in your surroundings: there’s a great atmosphere and it is important we can get off to a good start.”