EVERY Scot had reason to be proud of their national team last week as they overcame Serbia to end the long wait for tournament football, but those associated with Motherwell had even more cause than most for their chests to swell on the back of ending 22 years of hurt.

The Fir Park club, remarkably, had two starting players in the shape of Declan Gallagher and Stephen O’Donnell in Steve Clarke’s line-up, and both played a major role in securing the eventual victory with their own individual performances.

Perhaps it was Gallagher though who caught the eye most, nullifying Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic and nailing down his place at the heart of the Scotland defence. It was a dominant performance, and for Motherwell assistant Keith Lasley, one that could come to define the 29-year-old’s career.

“To play at that level against that calibre of opposition was brilliant,” Lasley said.

“Looking at the Serbia game, they probably didn’t play anywhere near their capabilities, but that’s because we nullified them, and none more so than Declan up against Mitrovic. It was great to watch.

“You have moments in your career that are defining moments. Hopefully Declan has more to come, but that really seemed like one of those coming-of-age moments where everything just comes together.

“It was a flawless performance against high calibre opposition in a high pressure moment.

“When Declan came to Motherwell the manager said he really believed in him, and believed he was capable of the potential that he is now fulfilling and getting to this sort of arena and these sort of games in his career.

“It’s been a lot of hard work, and I’m sure Declan would admit that there are still areas of his game that he needs to improve, but I’m positive he has the hunger to do that.

“His consistency levels for club and now for country are a result of all that hard work he has put in during the last couple of years.

“I think there’s even more to come from him, but it did really seem like a defining moment in his career, and let’s hope there are more to come next summer when we get to the Euros.”

Under some previous managers, playing for a club in the Scottish top-flight instead of even the second tier in England may have been something of a handicap when it came to selection for the national side, and Lasley is pleased to see current boss Clarke picking players instead on their form and their merits.

“For Declan to be picked ahead of some of those other guys in the squad is a real feather in his cap, and a real boost for Scottish football I think too,” he said.

“A lot of people think that the manager is just going to pick the players who are playing in these supposedly higher level leagues, so it’s great for players in the SPFL to know that if they are playing well then that opportunity is there.

“I think Declan should take a lot of confidence from that, and it’s certainly something that we at Motherwell are proud of that he has represented the club so well with his country.

“We have Stephen there too as well as Allan Campbell and Barry McGuire with the under-21s, so its great for us to have these guys out there on a national platform showcasing our football club at that sort of level.”

Of course, with the widespread acclaim those players are now receiving comes a greater appreciation of their qualities, and perhaps a spike in interest around luring them away from Fir Park.

“That’s just the way it is at Motherwell,” Lasley said. “We’d much prefer it that way than having no clubs interested in our players, because then we wouldn’t be doing our jobs right.

“We’re just delighted for Declan and Stephen for what they are achieving, and having two guys right in the thick of such a moment for the country being associated with Motherwell was a proud moment for the club.”