SHAUN Maloney doesn’t need to be told about the lust for Scotland getting back to a major tournament. The 36-year-old former Scotland internationalist went through his entire career with the pressure

building with each failed campaign. But it’s just that it’s no longer his problem.

Maloney will take his seat at Hampden tomorrow night beside Roberto Martinez and Thierry Henry as he plays his role in overseeing the progression of Belgium – currently ranked No.1 in the world by FIFA – and their easy progression to next summer’s European Championships.

Whatever vagaries go through the minds of the Scotland dug-out can be appreciated by Maloney – without keeping him up

at night.

“It isn’t something that I can afford to think about too much just now,” said Maloney. “We are in the middle of a campaign and the remit is for Belgium to qualify and to top the group. Of course I would love to see Scotland get to a major tournament.

I spent a lot of my time trying to achieve that very aim myself as a player so I will never lose the appetite of wanting to see that come to

fruition. But for me I need to stay focused on what my own role is within Belgium.”

As such there will be no inclination to join in when the national anthems get going tomorrow night. Maloney’s diligence is what impressed Martinez about him when he worked under the Belgium manager at Wigan and the studious professionalism that underpinned Maloney’s career is evident as he prepares for a game that could give rise to conflicting emotions.

“I love Hampden and I love its history,” said Maloney, who was capped 47 times for his country. “As a player, I loved the national anthem and lining up for it – I still do – but at this stage of my professional life it is about staying focused and appreciating that I am being paid for a certain job. I just stay quiet and respectful.

I am working for Belgium so I think you have to respect both but I do especially have to remember that I am here to work.”

As a player, Maloney stepped out of Celtic’s academy and into a

dressing room that would have

intimidated many a youth-team

graduate. Chris Sutton, John

Hartson, Henrik Larsson and Paul Lambert were not known for their indulgence of those not good enough. There might have been a similar

experience a year ago when Maloney left the relative safety of his day job coaching Celtic reserves to team up with Belgium and walk onto a training field full of some of the game’s most expensive and recognised talents today.

Belgium captain Eden Hazard is expected to miss tomorrow night’s game because of injury but the former Chelsea player cost Real Madrid just shy of £150m this summer. The list can go on; Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois – not to mention fellow coach Henry – are all recognisable for plying their trade at the very top of their game.

Maloney took the transition in his stride and has maintained that part of what makes the Belgium side so dangerous is their ability to play as a team rather than as individuals.

“People always ask me about the players but my honest answer is that they are very humble,” said Maloney. “They work hard. They are world-class talents but they are a really hard-working group. They are demanding of themselves and of each other in training and it has been such a positive experience for me to come here and work with them.

“They have a tremendous attitude and will to win. They want to learn and they want to get better and as a coach that is great to work with.”

This time last year Maloney had just eased himself in alongside Henry and Martinez. His first job was to return to Hampden and watch Belgium inflict a clinical 4-0 defeat on Scotland, the worst home defeat since 1973. The significant change since then has been the arrival of Steve Clarke, with Maloney

unwilling to second-guess how he will set Scotland up tomorrow night.

“I am not too sure that I can predict exactly how Scotland will approach it,” said Maloney. “Every manager has his own way of working and I don’t know how Steve will want to go about it. I don’t know a huge amount about Steve Clarke but I did play against his teams when I was down south. He was the West Brom manager at the time and of course he also has really high-level experience from his time at Chelsea and Liverpool. What he did at Kilmarnock was impressive and so although I don’t know him particularly well I have always been impressed with what he has done. I thought he was a great appointment and I think he has all the attributes to go on to be a fantastic Scotland manager.

“But it has been nice to see James [Forrest of Celtic] get some recognition for what he has achieved. He has been excellent for both club and country and he has been exceptionally consistent too. But it is not just all about James. Ryan Christie has gone on to another level over the last six months and a few weeks back I took in an Aston Villa game and thought that John McGinn really shone. Ryan Fraser, too, has kicked on again. We think Scotland will have more than one threat. From middle to front they are good and they definitely have the ability to cause us problems. I’ll get a chat with a few of the players that I know after the game. Before it is just about focussing on getting the result.”