The nip in the air isn’t just down to the nights drawing in.

In the aftermath of Scotland’s Nations League double header that puts Steve Clarke’s side at the top of their group, there seemed to be some surprise within the camp that there should be any criticism at all directed towards the national side.

On paper four points out of six and an away win to the Czech Republic doesn’t look too bad at all.

And yet for those who actually endured the process of how those points were collected, there wasn’t much that was particularly easy on either the eye or the heartrate. And that’s before we start on a Czech side that was hastily assembled with players brought out of retirement and introduced to one another when they were handed their shirts before kick-off.

That Scotland did not play well is indisputable.

And contrary to some belief, that’s not from an overly critical press pack looking to nitpick or gripe or searching for negativity.

Many years ago on the back of another failed qualification campaign one player, who will remain anonymous, was doing the rounds in a busy media room and remarked that the journalists (Scottish) assembled weren’t overly keen on the country qualifying since failure offered a juicier story.

To his credit, he backtracked and accepted the fairly vehement reaction from a group of professionals not known for either their aversion to high profile tournaments abroad or their reluctance to enjoy a refreshment along the way. If being at a major tournament is a gift that has bypassed two generations of players and supporters, it is no different for those who cover the national sport for a living.

And to that end, the criticisms that game on the back of Friday night’s display at Hampden and then the other night in Olomouc are all voiced with next month in mind. The fragility within the Scotland camp has not solidified any in recent months and the problem now is that ahead of the Israel play-off game in October that could be part of an opportunity to piggyback into next summer's European Championships, the last two outings have raised more questions than answers.

That an exceptional young Norway side will most likely lie in wait should there be a successful negotiation of Israel next month might put the gas at a peep but the problem where Scotland is concerned is that the we have all been conditioned to the cycle of failure.

Football managers are like politicians in what they manage publicly and what they feel privately. Clarke spoke of the system being a success and a new look back three with Scott McTominay converted from a midfielder to a centre-half as effective. Whether he genuinely sees grounds for optimism where no-one else did will be revealed in the line-up for the game against Israel next month.

Ultimately, he has been left with as many questions as there are answers from the last 180 minutes of football.

The biggest two bonuses that have emerged from recent games has been the form of David Marshall and the discovery that Lyndon Dykes does not look out of place at international level. What goes in in between the goalkeeper and the striker is the bigger source of consternation.

Eight midfield players were utilised between Friday night and Monday evening. On paper, this is where Scotland look like boasting all their riches yet there has been no harvest from a group of players who have the talent to compete at this level. In fairness, the likes of John McGinn is still in pre-season training with Aston Villa.

Kieran Tierney played one game on the left-hand side of a back defensive three where he has excelled for Arsenal but Clarke, whose appointment was arguably the most popular Scotland appointment in recent memory, has yet to mould Scotland into a team who are greater than the sum of their parts.

Acclaimed for his ability to turn water into wine at Rugby Park, the miraculous touch needed to convert Scotland has been far harder to find.

There is little evidence to point to sustained improvement and development in his time in the dugout and it would be easy to fall into the traditional Scotland cycle; new manager, cautious optimism, floundering results, qualification failure, new manager…

Yet it would make no sense to even think about ringing changes now, or even if there is failure next month.

There is huge pressure around the national team because they carry the weight of decades of failure on their shoulders. It is too premature to start repeating the old cycle any time soon.

The Scottish government’s decision to allow a few babysteps towards the return of football fans into stadia is to be welcomed, although it remains to be seen just what lessons are learned from such small numbers.

Aberdeen v Kilmarnock and Ross County v Celtic will be allowed to host up to 300 fans this weekend, the first time that football has opened its doors to supporters since March this year, just before lockdown was enforced.

It is a move in the right direction but with localised constraints on areas around the country, the slightest bit of complacency will have the doors banging closed again.

Still, with just 300 fans inside every shout and insult will be heard loud and clear towards a pitch that won’t have much hiding room.