Steve Clarke encouraged his players to soak up every minute of the warm welcome extended by the locals in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

But now? It’s down to business.

The squad have been touched by the well-wishes they’ve received from the second they touched down on German soil, with Clarke keen for them to embrace everything that comes with qualifying for a major tournament.

However, with civic receptions and open training sessions out of the way, he is also honest enough to admit his relief at getting back to a bread-and-butter routine.

Carefully choreographed drills. Recovery time. Team meals. Team meetings. Repeat.

All eyes are on Friday’s eagerly-anticipated UEFA EURO 2024 opener against Germany.

Steve Clarke

Steve, how do you reflect on the first few days here in Germany?

Different. Enjoyable. I’ve been here before, so I knew of the excitement within the town. I knew the excitement felt by the dignitaries here. They wanted us here and were looking forward to getting us out here. We got a typical Bavarian welcome. It was special, eh? The weather tried to interrupt things, but it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. The locals found another way to do it and the players enjoyed it, which is the big thing for me. John McGinn certainly enjoyed it! The players like to feel the atmosphere, coming into the camp, but, after the welcome and the open training session, today was about getting down to business. I’m aware of the fact it’s the first time in a long time that Scotland’s been involved in a major international tournament, when everyone can travel. We’re here to send everyone home with a smile on their face in three – hopefully four – weeks. To do that, we need to focus.

There’s no getting away from it. Injuries have disrupted the build-up, but the group has rallied. Are you happy with where we are ahead of Friday?

I’ve got to be honest, it was a really difficult pre-camp. There were so many variables. You can deal with the early injuries because you have time to prepare and find replacements. Those players have got time to get over their disappointments. Then we went into the pre-camp and had the Lyndon Dykes injury, which frightened the 27 other players who were in the squad at the time. It’s not something you like to see, one of your team-mates getting carried off on a stretcher. It wasn’t good and it obviously put Lyndon out of the tournament. Ben Doak’s one was also disappointing for him. Everyone within the camp could see his qualities and what he’ll bring in the future. His knee just wasn’t going to be ready. It was maybe easier for me to understand than Ben. He’s young enough and he has plenty of tournaments in front of him, hopefully.

It must be nice to go into a major tournament without the covid-related restrictions that dominated the last Euros.

It is slightly different. Once we were in camp, we could at least mingle a little bit, within the restrictions. This is a group that’s grown together. They enjoy each other’s company. There are no little groups that isolate themselves. They’re happy to be here and so they should be. From now, it’s about being ready for the games. All those dynamics have been put in place over the last four or five years. Something I earmarked pretty early on, going into the last tournament, was that they had about 400 caps between them. This time we’re going in with about 800. They’re that bit more experienced. We’ve lost some of the younger players to injury, which leaves us a bit older as a group. But we’ve got a good, experienced squad who have a better idea this time of what’s required. Four points is the target to achieve qualification, but we’d like a little bit more than that if we can.

Are you relieved to be back to ‘normal’ now after all the festivities that followed our arrival?

It’s just about being on the grass, doing what we do best. We’ll make sure the players are as well prepared as they can be between now and kick-off on Friday. We can help a little bit, but the players have to do it on the pitch.

How do you juggle the players’ emotions, the sense of occasion and simply preparing to play against a very good team?

Individually, the players have to understand that we’re not there for the occasion. We’re there for the game and the vast majority of them will understand that. The pre-match routine will be different because there’s a pre-match show going on on the pitch. It’s going to be completely different and we’ll have a chat about that. We’ll tell the players to expect something different, to adapt and be ready. Forget the circus that’s going on around us and enjoy the game.

Julian Nagelsmann – manager of the German national team – has been very complimentary about you and the players. We take it the feeling’s mutual?

Everyone was telling me when the draw was made that Germany wasn’t in a good place, but I wasn’t fooled. I wasn’t getting carried away with that talk. You know when it comes to a major tournament that Germany are always ready. It’s a home tournament and you know they’re going to be really up for this one. There was a bit in the media about a little bust-up on their training pitch. That just tells me that they’re ready and up for it. We expect a very, very good Germany side, but hopefully they’re facing a very, very good Scotland side. Julian’s taken a little bit of time to put his stamp on the team but that’s what happens. In recent friendly matches they’ve looked like their old selves. I’m looking for a good performance. Play as well as you can and we’ll see what happens.

Our supporters are heading to Germany in their droves. What’s your message to them?

There will be plenty back in Scotland who hopefully enjoy watching us on the telly. For those who are over, hopefully the team gives you something to shout about. Hopefully we give them a chance to enjoy the games and be part of a Scotland side that makes history. I’m looking forward to it, of course. Why wouldn’t you? This doesn’t happen very often. I’m lucky enough to be old enough to remember when we qualified regularly, then we had that barren spell of more than 20 years. Treat every tournament like it’s your last one, but make sure we get to another one…