FORMER Scotland and Celtic defender Gary Caldwell has insisted that “anyone in football would be willing to work with Walter Smith” as he vies for the vacant Scotland job.

Caldwell, an inductee into the SFA Hall of Fame with 55 caps, first made his interest known to the SFA before Christmas and then posted a reminder of his offer when it emerged that Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill had turned down the proffered role.

Given the manner in which all eggs were placed in O’Neill’s basket and the resultant exit of former SFA chief executive Stewart Reagan last week, the public perception has been that there has been a dearth of candidates for the role. This week’s suggestion that former Rangers and Scotland manager Walter Smith could be enticed out of retirement to take on some kind of mentoring job within the organisation was met with interest by Caldwell, who stressed his own belief that any young manager has a clutch of experienced veterans for whom they should be willing to call on.

“Listen, if Walter really wanted that job then you would have to say that he would get it,” he said. “He is one who would jump out at the board because he is so qualified for the job. I would probably be seen as a more revolutionary candidate.

“But would I be willing to work with Walter? Absolutely. Anyone in football would work with Walter Smith.

“His track record speaks for itself and any young manager could learn plenty from someone with his experience.

“But for a long time I have actually thought about this with Scotland, and not just now as I am looking to step into the job.

“We have the experience of guys like Graeme Souness and Kenny Dalglish as well as Alex Ferguson, who is up there with the very best managers of his era and for a small nation, we really have to be willing to utilise these guys.

“They have experience of the very top level. They understand the demands and what it takes and we should be looking to get them, as well as some of the young Scottish coaches like myself and Robbie Nielson and Alex Rae around a table. There is so much that we could learn from them.”

O’Neill was the wanted man by the SFA but Caldwell was keen to point out the parallels between the two. O’Neill was under the radar when he went into the Northern Ireland job at the age of 41 having managed Brechin City and Shamrock Rovers, experience that the former defender is akin to his own so far.

Caldwell succeeded Scotland performance director Malky Mackay as Wigan manager towards the end of the 2014/15 season, when the club were struggling in the English Championship relegation zone.

Although relegation inevitably followed, Caldwell was successful in engineering an immediate return to the English second tier during his first full campaign in charge. In October 2016, Caldwell was sacked by Wigan, with the club in 23rd position and winless in four games.

His second managerial stint at Chesterfield saw him dismissed after just eight months, following just three wins in 29 games.

Caldwell has not twirled his thumbs since September. Before Christmas he spent a little time at Lennoxtown to chat to Brendan Rodgers and gleaned information over lunch and via his observations at the way the Celtic manager conducted his training sessions. Last week he was invited to dine with Ferguson in Manchester as they chatted and went over the former Old Trafford manager’s early coaching career.

“The other week, to go and have a two-hour lunch with Sir Alex, was just gold dust,” he said. “His time at Aberdeen and Manchester United has been well documented, but what I found fascinating was how he started out, at St Mirren and East Stirling.

“He was brilliant with me and I do think as a young coach you do feel inspired by these guys.”

Whoever gets the Scotland job will have something of a hotline to Celtic Park given the volume of players who routinely swap the green-and-white of their day job for the dark blue of their country. There were seven at the last count, something that Caldwell expects is a major positive for whoever gets the job.

“At the beginning of December I was up at Celtic for the game against Anderlecht in the Champions League and ended up spending a few days at Lennoxtown. Brendan [Rodgers] was brilliant with me.

“There was just so much to take in from the way he trains and how professional he is and it was great for me to go in and see that. As I said to Brendan, I actually felt that you could see the performance levels of Scotland go up with the improvement at Celtic. With so many players coming from Parkhead and into the national team, you could feel the rise in standard at one point.

“Essentially, that is what you are looking to do as an international manager.

“You want to replicate club form with the national team and if you have players looking to compete in the Champions League very year then that experience, as I know full well myself, definitely helps to prepare you for international football.

“It is no coincidence that Spain done so well with a core of Barcelona players, that Germany did so well with many coming from Bayern Munich. That helps to forge a club mentality.”