BEING the manager of a national team must be simultaneously the best and worst job in football. The good part? Whoever takes it can count upon the near unanimous backing of the country. And not just the hardcore fans either.

It is not stretching it to say that a winning team can bolster the feelgood factor right across the land. You only need to peek across the border to witness the lift the whole of England got in their journey to the semi-finals of the World Cup last year to see the influence sport has when it comes to putting a strut in the stride of a nation. Few club managers ever get to wield that kind of power.

The flip side, of course, is that there is no hiding place when it starts to go awry. An embattled manager struggling to get results will quickly find themselves the subject of a nation’s considerable scorn. And before you know it you are on the back page of the tabloids with your head superimposed on to a root vegetable.

Never has that contrast been so stark than here in Scotland. A country obsessed with football to the detriment of just about everything else, that desperate desire to see the return of a successful men’s national team has now being going on for 20 years.

Every new managerial appointment in that period has been afforded a warm welcome – some warmer than others admittedly – before the reaction moves on to minor irritation and then outright hostility as results go from bad to worse. Scotland managers rarely illicit an air of apathy.

Steve Clarke will be aware of all of this. Expected to be confirmed as Alex McLeish’s successor in the coming days, Clarke will be a popular appointment, certainly more than McLeish was after he was rushed into post following the Scottish FA’s botched attempts to hire Michael O’Neill.

Some Rangers fans may not take to him given his recent comments about the sectarian abuse he received at Ibrox but beyond that there will be few dissenters. Given some of the other names initially thrown about – Malky Mackay and Davie Moyes, in particular – the Scottish FA have won themselves a reprieve with this populist choice.

The tricky bit for Clarke, then, comes in maintaining that feelgood factor. Scotland’s prospects of qualifying for Euro 2020 via the traditional route seem to have already been scuppered by the 3-0 humiliation in Kazakhstan that ultimately did for McLeish. In truth, that may not be a bad thing for Clarke. It sees him picking up the ropes in the early stages of a campaign already doomed to failure. If Scotland don’t qualify from this position, few fingers will point at the former Kilmarnock man.

Clarke will be expected to fashion a home win over Cyprus in the forthcoming double-header but there will be little anticipation ahead of the trip to Belgium. Barring a very heavy defeat, that becomes a free hit for the manager where any kind of result would be seen as an unexpected bonus.

It is from that match onwards that Clarke starts to earn his corn. Home matches against Russia and Belgium in September offer an early opportunity to show progress has been made, while the real test lies ahead in the Nation League play-offs in March. Everything Clarke does between now and then will effectively be 10 months of preparation for those matches. There won’t be a better chance to end that long absence from major finals than by winning two ties against similarly-ranked nations. For anyone wondering why Clarke would want to take on this poisoned chalice of a job, there is your answer.

There are no guarantees, of course, that Clarke can repeat the miracle he has worked at Rugby Park but that is surely what the Scottish FA are banking on. He has taken an under-performing squad who were flirting with relegation and, with one or two additions, turned them into a group capable of competing at the top end of the division.

He won’t have the luxury of daily access to implement his own particular brand of man-management with each member of the Scotland squad, nor the hours on the training ground to create the tight-knit, almost machine-like unit that Kilmarnock have become. They are not always the most attractive side to watch but few can argue that they are not effective.

If Clarke’s hands are tied when it comes to getting the time to implement his methods, then he can take solace from the fact that he will be working with players of a higher calibre. Scotland has struggled as a collective of late but individually there are plenty of components from whom more can be drawn. In Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, James Forrest, Callum McGregor, Ryan Fraser, John McGinn and, eventually, Leigh Griffiths there is a solid base around which a promising side can be built.

There is no transfer market available to supply the missing pieces but Clarke’s proven ability to drag average players up to a higher plane will again go in his favour. The number of call-offs ought to also drop off given the fact that Clarke simply won’t tolerate it. He is a man not to be messed with.

Clarke will take office with the entire country behind him. The trick is to keep that going. But all signs point towards him having a better chance than most.