When Gordon Strachan succeeded Craig Levein as Scotland national-team manager in January last year, the nation was 69th in the FIFA world rankings.
No-one would have predicted the sudden change in form for Scotland and the renewed belief and exciting football which was not seen under Craig Levein.
Just 14 months on the former Celtic, Coventry and Southampton boss has overseen a massive upturn in form and guided them to 22nd worldwide and 14th in the UEFA table.
Along the road, the 57-year-old has left behind signs of the progress he has made—first among these being the 1-0 win over Croatia in Zagreb back in June 2013.
The result not only gave the long-suffering Tartan Army momentary joy, but it hinted at the effect Strachan was already having on the national side.
Despite a handful of away wins during Levein's tenure, none matched Strachan's victory over Croatia due to the gutsy nature of their performance in a difficult venue against superior opposition.
Robert Snodgrass scored the winner that night—the Norwich midfielder has played himself into Strachan's first team of late and his uncanny ability to position himself just right when making forward runs has proved extremely valuable to his manager.
The side followed the memorable win with defeats against England and Belgium, respectively. But it was the match against the former which once again inspired confidence in the new boss.
Again, the battling and mature display against another superior team was evident. Despite going ahead twice in the game—including through a Kenny Miller strike which saw him become the first Scotland international in 34 years to score against England from open play at Wembley—they eventually went down 3-2 thanks to a Rickie Lambert header 20 minutes from time.
Ultimately, and for reasons solely related to the result their on-pitch performance merited, Scotland were disappointed to be heading back north without the victory.
Winning ways returned quickly for Strachan, however, with another away victory—this time over Macedonia—chalked up just three days after the defeat to Belgium. Then came the acid test: Croatia at Hampden.
Again it was Snodgrass who popped up with a goal for his manager. The winger netted inside half an hour to send the Scots on their way to another win over an opponent out for revenge and chasing World Cup qualification—something they eventually did achieve via the play-offs, fuelling further the "what if" aspect of Strachan's so-far successful tenure.
A trend has begun to appear. Under Strachan's brief control, Scotland have already matched the four away wins reached by Levein during his three years in charge. They've done it with far more style and confidence than under the former Dundee United manager.
Where Levein's list of away victories read Northern Ireland, Liechtenstein, Cyprus and Luxembourg, Strachan's records Croatia, Macedonia, Norway and Poland. So, what is the main difference Strachan has brought since taking charge a little over a year ago which now sees Scotland sit just outside the top 20 in world football?
Perhaps most telling is this: when the draw for the EURO 2016 qualifiers saw his side pitted against the Republic of Ireland and Georgia—both sides they have struggled against in recent campaigns—as well as Poland and international heavyweights Germany, fans of Strachan's Scotland collectively replied "second place" without one hint of sarcasm.
Write for GiveMeSport! Sign-up to the GMS Writing Academy here: http://gms.to/1a2u3KU
DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms