When asked about his memories in a Scotland shirt, Russell Martin beams with pride.
Born and raised in Brighton, the now MK Dons manager qualified for the Scotland National Team through his father.
However, had it not been for a failed attempt to make it in to the Under-21s squad, the former Norwich defender may never have gone on to secure 29 international caps – something he considers as one of the biggest achievements of his career.
“Early in my career when I was at Wycombe I was close to getting called up for the Under-21s,” Martin revealed. “By the time the club found out I was eligible for Scotland though, I was too old so missed the boat. I remember Paul Lambert trying to sort it out for me but when it couldn’t get resolved in time I was absolutely gutted. I thought my chance had gone, but at least I was on the radar for my country.
“Later in my career after being promoted to the Championship with Norwich, I remember knowing before our game against Ipswich that Craig Levein was in the stands. I played well that day, so I felt pretty good, but when I found out soon after that I was getting called up it was an even better moment and a bit surreal to be honest.
“I’d gone from League One to the Premier League and a Scotland call-up in the space of two seasons, so it was huge for my career - and for me and my family.”
Family is a fitting comparison to make when Russell talks about the international scene.
“I might get a bit of stick sometimes for having an English accent,” he joked, “but making my Scotland debut is definitely one of the proudest moments of my career and I had so many special moments with the national team and all the boys. I felt welcome from day one and it was a special, close-knit group.
“One of the best games of my career came in a Scotland top and that was against Ireland at Celtic Park. The situation, the performance, the atmosphere, the result – everything about it will live with me forever.
“I look back on my Scotland career with such fond memories. I’d never imagine I would get 29 caps and as a whole it has given me such valuable experiences.”
It has also left Russell with some frustrations too.
The former Rangers player said: “We were so close under Gordon Strachan. The Georgia result really hurt us because there was a huge belief among the squad and coaching staff that we were good enough to qualify. Some of our performances over a two year period were excellent and we were ultimately undone by one.
“That’s got to be the one regret about it all for me – not qualifying for a tournament we probably deserved to.”
Now his playing days are behind him, Russell revealed his aspirations as a coach now he is in his first job at English League One side MK Dons.
Speaking on the Scottish Football Coaching Podcast, the former Scotland defender tells some fascinating stories about the coaches he learned from as a player, his style of management and the challenges presented by COVID-19 for a football manager.