Former Scotland midfielder Paul Lambert believes that Gordon Strachan’s side has a golden opportunity to reach next summer’s European Championships in France.

Lambert was an integral member of the team the last time Scotland reached a major tournament in 1998, and the ex-St Mirren, Motherwell, Borussia Dortmund and Celtic player feels that it is an experience that many of the current squad deserve.   

Speaking at the Tesco Bank Football Festival at Hampden Park, Lambert said: ??“To get to any major tournament is an achievement, especially for a country of our size. We’re in a good position, with a massive match against the Republic of Ireland who are playing well too. ??

“It’d be great for players like Darren Fletcher and Scott Brown especially. They’re two guys who have worked ever so hard to get into themselves and the team into this position. They’ve been in so many campaigns and they must feel themselves how close they are to qualifying.”

Along with Darren Fletcher and Scott Brown, another midfielder that Lambert was keen to point out was Shaun Maloney. The former Celtic captain played in Maloney’s debut, a 3-0 victory over Rangers at Ibrox in 2001, and even back then he saw the potential that the Chicago Fire player had. ??

“Shaun was only a young kid when we were at Celtic, but he was a big talent and I always liked him” he told the Scottish FA website.

“He’s a terrific player, a great guy and really down to earth.  He’s earnt himself a brilliant move to Chicago – I’ve been to the set-up they have over there – and it’s a great move for him.”

Lambert earned 40 caps for Scotland during his playing career, including an impressive display against Brazil in the opening match of the 1998 FIFA World Cup. That day in the Stade de France, along with winning the Champions League in 1997 with Borussia Dortmund, were high points in his career.?

He said: “The Champions League is obviously the biggest tournament in European football, and the World Cup is incredible. It’s hard to say which was better – one outweighs the other – because above all else they were both big achievements. The World Cup was incredible – if we weren’t going to win it, opening the tournament against Brazil was the next best thing!”

Since playing Lambert has gone into management, most recently as manager of Aston Villa. Following his departure from the Premier League side in February, he has travelled from European clubs like Borussia Dortmund. Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, where he has learnt from some of the best coaches in the world.

“It really was an incredible experience, spending time with three of the biggest clubs in the world. Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti were first class, and it was an eye-opener.”

Paul Lambert was at Hampden Park to help promote Tesco Bank’s Football Festival, which gave children from 29 primary schools the opportunity to play at Scotland’s national stadium.

The event reminded him of his first appearance at Hampden as a youngster, when he won the 1987 Scottish Cup as a 17-year-old with St Mirren.

“The stadium was the old Hampden, which was mostly standing and had a brilliant atmosphere,” Lambert remembered.

“We were playing against a very good Dundee United side, who were excellent at the time. I played the match as if it were a boys’ club match – I was only 17 at the time – so I didn’t fully realise what I was involved in, but it was a great day.”

The Tesco Bank Football Challenge is designed to encourage primary two and three children to become more active and develop a love of the game, and while thing have changed since he was a youngster, Lambert fully backs the initiative.?

He said: “I was fortunate in the sense that when I was younger we played street football, and we never had what kids today have now. It was what we did - we were out playing until all hours.

“Of course, things are different now and society has changed, and that’s why initiatives such as the Tesco Bank Football Festival are great.”