A KEY part of Steve Clarke’s backroom staff has described seeing Scotland qualify for Euro 2021 as “the best feeling I have had in my life outside of family”.

Graeme Jones was part of the Scottish Football Association (SFA) team in Serbia earlier this month when Scotland finally ended a 22-year wait to reach a major tournament.

Victory in a penalty shootout after David Marshall denied Aleksandar Mitrovic was enough to ensure Scotland will be at the European Championships next year.

Jones, originally from Dunbar, said: “It was just a phenomenal feeling.

“It was the best feeling I have had in my life outside of family-related things.

“Professionally, nothing can compare and all the various situations I have been in.

“I am really, really proud and really, really privileged to play a part in the team that delivered success for Scottish football.

“We are just looking forward to what is to come and will go and enjoy it.

“Potentially we go and do a job because we have got a really terrific manager and collectively strong, talented players, who are all very much pulling together.

“It was a moment in time to enjoy.”

The 37-year-old has been the SFA’s head of high performance since 2017, having previously been head of football science and medicine.

The role allows him to give specific focus to the preparation and travelling support with the men’s and women’s national squads and to manage the performance output in science, medicine and analysis on a daily basis while on camp to support the national team players and coaching staff.

Jones, who continues to live in East Lothian with his wife and daughter, spent the 120 minutes of the play-off match against Serbia sitting in the stands of Belgrade’s Rajko Mitic Stadium as Scotland made history.

Ryan Christie’s second-half goal put Scotland in front before Luca Jovic’s late leveller sent the tie to extra time.

Scotland would hold their nerve and progress after netting all five of their penalties to reach a major tournament for the first time since the World Cup in France in 1998.

Jones, who attended Dunbar Grammar School, admitted he “hugged Steve Clarke to within an inch of his life”.

He told Courier Sport: “Words cannot describe it. It was very, very surreal and a bit of a blur now.

“I cannot really remember all of it but it was fantastic, just a fantastic moment.

“Because of the nature of it, you are not aware of how big a moment it is.

“Afterwards, you come to terms with how massive an achievement it is for the country and how important it is, particularly during this last year with Covid, and how it is such a huge event for the country.”

Jones, who previously worked with Raith Rovers, is not the only member of the family involved in football, though.

His older brother Geoff, 44, has been in charge of East of Scotland Football League side Dunbar United for more than six years.

He has taken a leave of absence from the Seasiders, while Graeme also highlighted how proud brother Russell, 42, who lives in Glasgow, was as well.

Graeme said: “Russell is just a massive fan.

“He is the biggest fan and the first to message me.

“He is the one that tends to utilise my tickets but me and my brothers are really, really close.

“We are as close as close can be, we are best friends in equal measures.”