HAD the Scottish Football Association high heid yins approached Steve Clarke about taking over from Gordon Strachan as Scotland manager back in October after the vacancy had opened up there would doubtless have been an outcry.

Davie Moyes, Paul Lambert and even Jurgen Klinsmann were being talked about as potential replacements for Strachan back in those heady days.

Targeting a man who hadn’t worked as a head coach since a brief and, aside from the FA Cup semi-final place which he led his side to, disappointing spell in charge of Reading in the English Championship two years earlier, wouldn’t have been well received at all.

If it emerges in the coming days, though, that Clarke has been identified as the SFA’s preferred candidate the reaction will be quite different.

After the failed attempt to land Michael O’Neill, Scot Gemmill being championed for the role, Walter Smith emerging as a surprise contender and then withdrawing almost as quickly, Malky Mackay coming back into the running, Alex McLeish saying he is interested and Gary Caldwell and John Hughes putting themselves forward despite their decidedly patchy track records in the dugout, he is now viewed far more favourably.

The beleaguered governing body would be lavished with praise if the man who has transformed the fortunes of Kilmarnock since taking over – the week after, by a strange quirk of fate, Scotland failed to beat Slovenia away and missed out on the Russia 2018 play-off place that would have kept Strachan in a job – was brought in.

It is not just the outstanding job which Clarke has done at Rugby Park which has seen his stock rise dramatically, it is the unattractive alternatives which have made handing him the job seem more appealing. All of a sudden, people are looking at the positives, of which there are many, rather than the negatives.

Smith coming out of retirement for a second spell in charge of his country as he approached his 70th birthday and possibly preparing a young coach to one day take over him, in much the same way as he did with Ally McCoist at Rangers latterly, was viewed favourably by many.

The history of modern football is littered with examples of managers who did well in their seventh and eighth decades; Dick Advocaat, Sir Alex Ferguson, Guus Hiddink, Roy Hodgson, Largs Lagerback, Claudio Ranieri, Sir Bobby Robson, Louis van Gaal and Arsene Wenger, to name just a handful, all did so with noteworthy results.

Smith would certainly be a safe pair of hands who could be relied upon not to make an almighty mess of things and given the farce which the search for the new manager has descended into that would certainly be welcome.

But turning to the sprightly septuagenarian was hardly, even if he was to mentor his potential successors in much the same way that Jock Stein did with Ferguson and Jim McLean back in the 1980s, a forward-thinking, positive and progressive move.

In comparison, going for Clarke would be. The 54-year-old ticks a lot of boxes. He is a good age for the job, has ambitions in the game, is Scottish, has worked at a high level in the past at Chelsea, West Ham, Liverpool, West Brom and Aston Villa, will command the respect of the players who will be working under him as a result and will excite the fans.

Both O’Neill, after an interview, and Smith, before the process had got to that stage, have ruled themselves out of the running. But Scotland remains, with Stuart Armstrong, Leigh Griffiths, Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney all involved and with many years or international football ahead of them, still an enticing job for a hungry manager.

The word from Rugby Park is that Steve Clarke is happy where he is and is only concerned with helping Kilmarnock, who have gone from bottom spot to the verge of a top six place in the space of little over three months, taking eight points from four games against Celtic and Rangers along the way, improve further.

But he has been careful about how he has worded his responses to persistent questions about the Scotland position. If he was to be offered an attractive deal it would surely be extremely tempting. The SFA board will discuss their next move by conference call next week. Clarke will be high on the agenda.