SCOTT Bain racked up nearly 7,000 air miles with Scotland in the space of nine days, crossed 12 time zones, was involved in all 180 minutes of two emotionally-draining and energy-sapping games and, at the end of it all, found himself subjected to abuse from his own side’s disgruntled supporters.
Yet, the Celtic keeper believes playing for the national team in their opening Euro 2020 qualifiers against Kazakhstan and San Marino has only, despite the outcome of both games and the fallout to them, boosted him physically and psychologically going into the meeting with Rangers on Sunday.
Bain, who made his debut for his country in the friendly against Mexico in the Azteca Stadium last June, took over from his Rangers counterpart Allan McGregor, who announced his retirement from international football earlier this month, in goals in the Group I double header.
His first competitive Scotland match proved to be a harrowing experience; he conceded twice in the opening 11 minutes in Nursultan following defensive errors by Scott McKenna and Graeme Shinnie and was helpless to prevent his side from crashing to an embarrassing 3-0 reverse.
The second game against tiny San Marino in Serravalle on Sunday wasn’t a great deal better; the Tartan Army booed Alex McLeish’s players after they had struggled their way to an unconvincing 2-0 triumph.
However, the 27-year-old, who was working as a building site labourer just five years ago when he was playing part-time for Alloa, was delighted to be made Scotland No.1.
He is confident that he and his team mates will benefit from their involvement in the Kazakhstan and San Marino matches and will be better placed to deal with the demands of international football and the expectations of their demanding supporters when they play Cyprus at home and Belgium away in their next two Euro 2020 qualifiers in June.
“It was a great experience for myself,” he said. “Obviously we haven’t started the group as we would have wanted to, but it’s a learning curve at least that game was at the start. We’re building relationships and understandings with each other – playing with me and a new back four. It’s great to have the No.1 jersey.”
Bain felt the reaction to Scotland’s display and result against San Marino was unjustified and compared the outing to playing lesser opponents domestically with Celtic.
“I thought we controlled the game from start to finish,” he said. “It was similar to playing a lower league team back home. You’ve got to be patient, move the ball quickly and hope that the space opens up for you to play through.
“I wouldn’t say it was bad performance. We were never in any danger. Obviously, we would have liked to have scored more goals. But when they tired towards the end we could have got three or four more. The most important thing, though, was getting three points.”
Bain, who wasn’t personally at fault for any of the Kazakhstan goals, didn’t have a save of note to make in the San Marino match and insisted that at no stage in the course of the 90 minutes had he been concerned about the minnows scoring and possibly pulling off an upset.
Asked if he was concerned about the bottom-placed team in the FIFA World Rankings levelling in the second-half when the score was 1-0, he said: “Not really.
“There was one occasion where a boy got in and I tried to push him wide so it was too tight an angle for him to score from. But against any team you know they’re going to get a chance. You can’t stop that over 90 minutes. I thought we did really well to keep the amount of opportunities they had down.”
Bain will now turn his attentions to Ladbrokes Premiership meeting with Rangers at Parkhead on Sunday when he returns to training with Celtic at Lennoxtown today. He is confident he will suffer no hangover from his time away with Scotland.
Neil Lennon’s side are currently 10 points clear of Steven Gerrard’s team at the head of the top flight table with just eight games remaining and victory this weekend would as good as wrap up their eighth consecutive Scottish title win.
His keeper performed well on his only appearance in the fixture to date last year in difficult circumstances – the then Dundee loanee made his Celtic debut against Rangers at Ibrox back in March due to both Craig Gordon and his understudy Dorus de Vries being sidelined.
Bain performed brilliantly and helped Brendan Rodgers’ men, who had Jozo Simunovic red carded in the second-half, come from behind twice and record a 3-2 triumph that sent them nine points clear in the Premiership.
Bain was impressed with how well the Scotland players, who flew to Kazakhstan and Italy on a luxury plane that had previously been used by Brazil, were treated when they were away and is confident he will be in peak condition both mentally and physically when the game against Rangers gets underway at noon on Sunday.
“Obviously Sunday is going to be a massive game for us,” he said. “It will be a great atmosphere. We’ll prepare well and look forward to it. I’ve had a couple of days’ rest before we go back to Lennoxtown. We’ve been looked after well while we’ve been away – top class planes, hotels and food. Now it’s simply a case of resting and going again.”