Gordon Strachan denied accepting a poisoned chalice and instead heralded the culmination of a 40-year journey after being confirmed as Scotland's manager.
The former Coventry, Southampton, Celtic and Middlesbrough manager was unveiled at Hampden Park on Tuesday as successor to Craig Levein, who was sacked in November and is involved in a legal dispute with the SFA over his pay-off. Strachan admitted an immediate priority is to restore the team's reputation to a level currently enjoyed only by the Tartan Army and refused to write off a World Cup qualifying campaign in which Scotland are bottom of Group A with two points.
Levein and George Burley endured fierce criticism as Scotland managers and the nation has not qualified for a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup. But Strachan, who is under contract until the European Championship in 2016 and will remain based in England, says he has not inherited a thankless task. "I think it is a great job," he countered. "There will be rough times and good times – hopefully there will be more good times than bad."
Strachan, 55, has been out of management since leaving Middlesbrough in October 2010 and said his new role is the realisation of a long-held ambition. "I am very proud of myself but my family, my wife, mother, grandchildren, children and my friends are very proud so it shows you how important the Scotland job is," he said. "It is probably 40 years in the making to get here.
"It is a job that I wanted to do and, for a Scotsman, this is a fantastic thing. When I was a kid I wanted to play for Scotland and I did that. Then I started coaching and I thought: 'I want to be the Scotland manager some day.' So I have achieved that with the help of a lot of people and players. It is going to be difficult; every job is difficult."
The first game for Strachan, who won 50 caps, is a friendly against Estonia at Pittodrie on 6 February. He then faces a World Cup qualifying double-header against Wales and Serbia in March and rejected a suggestion that a top-two finish – with eight points separating Scotland from second-placed Croatia – is beyond his squad.
"We're going to use the games to try and win. My philosophy is to win games of football, like Manchester United. We still have to collect as many points as we can and it's disrespectful to say we'll use the games just to improve. We'll give it a go. What I know is that these guys, for all they might get criticised, are the best at what they do. They play for Scotland and we have to find a system that suits these players to win games of football."
• This article was amended on 16 January 2013 to correct the name of the former Scotland manager George Burley, which was given as Craig Burley.