Malky Mackay will watch this summer’s Euro 2020 finals with an added degree of pride following his tenure as Scottish FA performance director.
In that role he was tasked with creating a pathway for young players to become future internationals, with an emphasis on performance schools.
During his time at the SFA, Mackay stepped in to take interim charge of the national team for a 1-0 friendly defeat against Holland at Pittodrie in November 2017, following the departure of Gordon Strachan.
Mackay made numerous changes to what had been an ageing team under Strachan, and handed debuts to Ryan Jack, Ryan Christie and Callum McGregor, who have become regulars under Steve Clarke.
With teenagers Billy Gilmour and Nathan Patterson part of Clarke’s 26-man squad for next month’s tournament, Mackay says the evidence of his efforts gives him immense satisfaction.
Mackay said: “It means more than you could ever know.
“I see a lot of the young players that were playing that night against Holland now being regulars, and going beyond that with Gilmour and Patterson.
“They are two kids who came out of the performance schools, which are a huge success story privately and quietly in this country.
“These performance schools have turned out kids that are getting more touches of the ball than every other kid in Scotland, and over a period of years they will flourish and come through and get seen by foreign clubs and get signed at 16 or 17.
“That has never happened before, and the money is coming back into the Scottish game, because English clubs are paying for Scottish kids at 16.
“The amount of 16-year-olds that are making league debuts for Scottish clubs, more than ever that’s catching fire and it will if it’s allowed to continue.
“When I then see the first two that go and actually make the national squad – It will be great for both of them to go and get experience in and around the squad, whether they play is another matter.
“There are kids coming through – how they come through is up for debate – but actually we have got international youth teams now where there is a way of working and a joined-up way of thinking between the coaches and the experience of being a Scotland player.”
Mackay feels a number of his former SFA colleagues deserve credit for the success of the projects he oversaw, adding: “I’m really happy for the people at the Scottish FA, the performance school coaches and Brian McLaughlin, Billy Stark and Scot Gemmill, who have nurtured these players at international level.
“I’m also proud to have been involved with Shelley Kerr and the women’s team – what a signing she was.
“Obviously the clubs have done a great job as well, but for me the national coaches and managers who have stuck with the task of nurturing these players for the last six or seven years, the reward is the pride that these boys can see on a piece of paper that they’re going to the Euros for Scotland.
“That makes a lot of that worthwhile.”
As Mackay prepares to return to club management with the Staggies, he feels his stint as performance director has broadened his understanding of the game.
He added: “I learned an awful lot, I enjoyed an awful lot.
“You learn the governing side of the game, the frustrating side of it that maybe people don’t see – the 100-odd people who work in the Scottish FA who are there purely to help Scottish football. Normal people who are in there making the wheels turn.
“What happens with the league clubs is one part, but there’s the grassroots, mental health, diversity and equality, the women’s game, coach education – there are all these other parts that the Scottish FA govern that are there for the good of Scotland.
“Being involved in that over the last four years was a privilege. It doesn’t get much light shone on it, but you look at it and say it is incredibly good for the game, the country and the health of people.
“Being asked to do the interim job for a while and being asked to manage the national team for one game is something that lives with me forever.
“I’m very proud of my experiences with the governing body, and I got that insight into being involved with FIFA and UEFA as well – actually seeing further afield in Europe and going out and mentoring technical directors around the world.”