It has not taken long for Gordon Strachan to appreciate the weight of expectation which surrounds international management. As he prepared for his first competitive fixture in charge of Scotland, against Wales at Hampden Park on Friday evening, he displayed a perfect understanding of what challenges are to come. And they are stark ones: the Scots have not featured at a major tournament since 1998 and currently lie bottom of their World Cup qualifying section.

"The realisation is there, when you are the manager of Scotland, that this is fantastic," Strachan said. "You have the opportunity to make a nation happy. Before, for me, it was always a certain amount of people at Coventry, Southampton and Celtic – which was bigger, obviously.

"With Scotland you can make millions of people happy but the problem is you can make a nation miserable at the same time. The rewards are fantastic but there is another side to it. You can make people miserable as well."

Strachan's international connection dates back to 1969, when he was part of a Tartan Army which was then entitled to be expectant.

"One of my first games was when Colin Stein scored five goals against Cyprus," he recalled. "I went to see Scotland against England when there was 137,000 at the game and you feel part of it as a fan when you go along. If it's a victory, you definitely feel your encouragement is part of what forced the players over the line. If you lose, you want nothing to do with it.

"The Scottish fans support the team in a way that is different from everybody else, well apart from Brazil maybe; and it is easier for them to turn up because they are winning every flipping game.

"But when we play it is a real occasion. It is fun to go along, it doesn't feel like a chore. I've been to a number of World Cups and European Championships through television and there's no doubt that although the Irish have stepped in, they are not as good as us at the celebration thing."

It seems fitting that Wales are opposition for Strachan. As a player his home Scotland debut came against the same nation while the tenure of his immediate predecessor, Craig Levein, was seriously wounded by a defeat in Cardiff last October. Scotland had a genuine grievance over that result, after a Steven Fletcher "goal" was wrongly ruled out when the visitors were already 1-0 up. Levein lasted one more game as manager.

"I don't think anyone has ever actually said what that goal was disallowed for," Strachan added. "I might not be sitting here but for that. At some stage in my career I would like to have been sitting here. But I would rather we had won the three points, that's for sure."

Strachan laughed off the comments of the former Wales international Mickey Thomas, who claimed his country will face the worst Scottish team in history.

"I just think it's hilarious," Scotland's manager said. "Mickey is brilliant. To validate his statement, I think Mickey would have to be 150 years old, to have seen every Scotland game in the last 130 years."

Wales are hopeful Gareth Bale will be fit to take his place in Chris Coleman's team, despite the Tottenham player travelling to Glasgow separately from the rest of the squad. Bale has been suffering from an illness and an ankle injury.

"Gareth has a good chance of playing," said Coleman. "But if players are not fit, I won't risk them. He's had a bit of a virus from Wednesday, he just needed rest. He took a later flight but he's in the hotel and hopefully he can have a good night. But at the minute we're optimistic and he has a very, very good chance of playing at the moment.

"He has bruising on his ankle but that wasn't a concern. But he didn't sleep on Tuesday and was ill on Wednesday.

"It would have been pointless him coming if I didn't think he would play. He's here which says everything about him wanting to play. He wants to be here."