THE new backroom team for the men’s national squad comprises a Scotsman and Englishman and an Irishman but they have no intention of being the butt of anyone’s joke. In particular, the debt of gratitude which Steven Reid – who joins Kilmarnock assistant Alex Dyer in Steve Clarke’s coaching ranks – wants to repay to his 55-year-old mentor from Saltcoats is no laughing matter.

Not only has the new Scotland manager twice now offered him significant step-ups on the coaching ladder, but during their days when Clarke was manager of West Brom and Reid was an injury-ravaged veteran player, he was almost like a counsellor.

The Republic of Ireland international recalls those weary walks along the corridor, turning left for the manager’s office before ever reaching the treatment room, only be talked down from the ledge. With an initial cruciate ligament injury followed by surgery at the hands of Dr Richard Steadman in Colorado, it took ten separate surgeries before Reid finally succumbed to the inevitable.

“The actual cruciate injury was pretty straightforward,” said Reid, who was offered his first coaching job by Clarke at Reading in 2015. “It was a seven-month rehab which I returned from and played 20 games. But the knee was constantly blowing up and that’s when I went for the big operation in America. I was sure that if I’d got it scanned and had expert opinion on it towards the end then it probably would have been an injury which you would retire with. But I just had a determination to keep going. I was still getting year-to-year contracts at that time and my aim was to stay in the Premier League as long as possible.

“I’d go into Steve’s office some days and say ‘I think I’m done, go and announce it this afternoon, I want to retire.’ But he’d talk me around, we’d have a chat and I’d play again a couple of weeks later. That was the kind of relationship we had. He would always tell me to go out at the top, on my own terms. And that’s what I did.”

What better way to pay his former gaffer back then than helping him lead Scotland to their first major finals in 22 years? “That would be massive,” said the Irishman, born in Richmond in South London. “I’ve had massive respect for him from those days. He was easy to talk to and his door was always open – and it was open a lot because I used to walk through it all the time!”

Those discussions with Clarke kindled a nascent interest in coaching. “We had some good chats and that’s when I started taking notes of training sessions,” said Reid, now a Pro licence holder. “It always helps when you have a manager like that to learn from and pinch ideas from.”

After two years at Reading, Reid spent a year under Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace, departing a year ago simply in order to get a clean break from the game and gain some long overdue time with the family. He spent a while coaching at both AFC Wimbledon and West Brom during the season just past, the latter assignment including being dumped out of the FA Premier League play-offs by Aston Villa and a certain John McGinn. The time out from the sport has restored his equilibrium and allowed him to recalibrate his goals.

“When I think about the kids being born - Isla is 12 now and Harry is 10 - for most of their early life I was always in a knee brace,” he says. “I look back at every picture from that time and I’ve usually got an ice-pack resting on my knee.

“It affected my days off,” he added. “I couldn’t go for long walks or chase the little ones around the garden. You’re on the sofa icing the knee to get fit for the Saturday. So family time, which you want to enjoy to switch off from football, became difficult. But I count myself fortunate that I got to 34 and had a decent four years at West Brom.

“I left Crystal Palace last summer and took a bit of a break from football,” he added. “I spent some quality time with the family then went out, continued my coaching education, had a couple of coaching roles at AFC Wimbledon, then finished at West Brom. Obviously, I had a good chat with John McGinn on Monday morning about that! But this season has really given me the buzz back again to really crack on with the coaching career.”

Joining up at Oriam for the first time this week after spending Saturday at the Champions League final in Madrid as a guest of his former Burnley team-mate Kieran Trippier, Reid can hardly keep the smile off his face. “It is an honour to obviously now be representing Scotland in a coaching capacity and working alongside the gaffer and Alex, who I know as well,” he said. “When the phone call came it was a no-brainer for me, the decision was on the spot. There were no other details, just ‘make your way up’.”

Still just 38, Reid hopes to be a bridge with the players. “I’m a little bit younger,” he said, “a little bit closer in age to a lot of the players. I’m trying to think if I’ve played against one or two of them. Possibly.”

Part of Mick McCarthy’s squad at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea in 2002, Reid’s knowledge of Scottish football is limited. “I played at Hampden with the Republic in 2002,” he said. “We won 2-0. That’s about it really. I have been up to a few games in Scotland. I have been to the Old Firm. I have been to see Steve at Kilmarnock as well. I went to the Rangers game [on the last day of the season] before any of this was happening. There are ones I need to do a little bit more homework on than others.”