STEVE CLARKE’S deadpan demeanour means he is never likely to be mistaken for The Laughing Policeman. The Scotland manager, however, must size up recent developments involving many of his players and feel imbued by a sense of quiet optimism a month out from his side’s demanding home double-header against Russia and Belgium.

Of course we have been here many times before with Scotland and should really know better than to look ahead with bristling confidence. But, after witnessing the early-season form of some of the integral members of the squad as well as summer transfer activity, it becomes almost impossible to escape the warming notion that things are looking unusually positive for once from the national team’s perspective.

Twice in the past week the record transfer fee for a Scottish player was broken. Oli McBurnie set the benchmark first of all via his £20m move from Swansea City to Sheffield United only to see it smashed again a few days later when Kieran Tierney’s protracted £25m transfer from Celtic to Arsenal was belatedly concluded.

With John McGinn and Kenny McLean both winning promotion last season with Aston Villa and Norwich City respectively, it means there will be at least six Scotland regulars playing in the Premier League this season. Granted, it remains one of the most over-hyped tournaments in the world but there is no doubting it also provides a platform in which players are tested every week.

Most significantly, three of those should be operating in or around the English top six, with Tierney joining Liverpool’s Andy Robertson and Scott McTominay of Manchester United in, theoretically, pushing for the title.

The perennial problem of just how best to fit Tierney and Robertson into any starting line-up will endure but having both fit and playing at that level can only serve Clarke well.

Other Scotland squad players should benefit from summer moves to sizeable English clubs; Liam Kelly to QPR, Graeme Shinnie to Derby County, and Marc McNulty to Sunderland, while Gary Mackay-Steven’s transfer to New York City drips with intrigue. All have the capacity to push for regular inclusion.

The early-season form of a number of players ought to also give Clarke cause to smile, most significantly the return of Leigh Griffiths after a lengthy period out. Griffiths may have to settle – initially at least – for the role of impact substitute at Celtic but at Scotland he remains first-choice centre-forward if fit and well.

His return after an extended break to take care of personal matters will need to be handled with care but will be much welcomed by Clarke given the lack of alternatives in that part of the pitch. Sheffield United evidently see great potential in the 23-year-old McBurnie but he is yet to score for his country. Steven Naismith’s new four-year deal at Hearts and positive start to the season shows he can still remain a force for Scotland at the age of 32.

Others at Celtic have begun the campaign in promising fashion. James Forrest and Callum McGregor have become two of the most consistent players in Scottish football, while Lewis Morgan and Mikey Johnston have shown further glimpses of their potential.

Elsewhere, Ryan Jack at Rangers and Aberdeen’s Lewis Ferguson ought to also come into consideration for next month’s squad.

So much for the positives. A squad replete with gifted left-backs and an abundance of central midfielders remains light in options or unsettled in terms of personnel in other areas.

David Marshall was Clarke’s choice in goal for his first two matches in charge against Cyprus and Belgium and is another who has made a close season switch, joining Wigan Athletic from Hull City. His primary competition will come from Scott Bain who has nailed down his place as Celtic’s first-choice goalkeeper this season and will surely have designs on getting his Scotland shirt back, too. Beyond Marshall, however, the rest of the back-up goalkeepers have just four caps between them.

Right-back is another position that continues to trouble Scotland managers. Stephen O’Donnell of Kilmarnock is first choice at the moment and his familiarity with Clarke from their time together at Rugby Park ought to serve him well. Talk over a return to Celtic later in the window might benefit him but only if he was going to play every week which wouldn’t be guaranteed. Shoving a fit-again Tierney across to the other flank is another option but one that has never been entirely satisfactory. Clarke must hope another Scottish right-back of promise emerges this season to offer further competition.

He paired Charlie Mulgrew with Scott McKenna in both games in June at the heart of the defence. Mulgrew was a surprise deadline-day mover from Blackburn Rovers to Wigan and, at the age of 33 isn’t one for the long term. How David Bates fares at Sheffield Wednesday on loan from Hamburg will be another for Clarke to keep an eye on. McKenna’s demand for a transfer suggests he isn’t happy with life at Aberdeen but, with the English window closed, the hope must be he knuckles down and continues to perform.

These are all dilemmas for Clarke to ponder as he prepares to name his squad in the coming weeks. For now, however, the positives seem to outweigh the negatives. And how often can a Scotland manager say that.