Robert Snodgrass says it “killed him” to call time on his Scotland career but hopes that decision will help prolong his top-level career.
The West Ham winger is enjoying his best season for the club since signing in 2017 for £10 million despite their struggles at the bottom end of the table.
Snodgrass has five goals to his name, one behind top scorer Sebastian Haller, and five assists.
And he admitted producing his best form for his club was a factor in his decision to retire from international football after 28 appearances and seven goals since his debut against Northern Ireland in 2011.
Injuries have often ruled Snodgrass out of squads and he told Sport360 exclusively: “It killed me to make the decision.
“It was a very very difficult decision, was a lot of emotions and tears in the decision. I’m so patriotic, I love Scotland, it’s my home.
“It was difficult, but I feel it was a decision that was best for me and for the country.
“It’s just that at certain stages of your playing career you need to make decisions. I feel as if I am coming up to 33 [in September] and it was for the best for me to produce at club level and I think the best possible time for Scotland to give the younger boys a chance.
“They have got some great young talent and I just think I want to watch as a fan.”
The loss of Snodgrass’s experience and quality for Scotland manager Steve Clarke has been West Ham’s gain.
Despite the £20 million arrival of Jarrod Bowen from Hull on deadline day in January, Hammers boss David Moyes has continued to start Snodgrass and seen the 32-year-old produce hard-working displays to try to lift his side away from relegation danger.
That was evident on Monday at Anfield when the Hammers pushed champions-elect Liverpool close in a 3-2 defeat.
A mistake from keeper Lukasz Fabianski contributed to their downfall after leading 2-1, but Snodgrass is hoping his side will show the same determination and effort in a crucial clash at home to Southampton on Saturday.
A point will take the Hammers out of the bottom three and victory bring them even closer to rivals such as Brighton, who snatched a 3-3 draw at the London Stadium recently after being 3-1 down.
Snodgrass scored twice in that game and said: “Every game we target, every game goes by and you don’t take something from it then you are kicking yourself – and especially when we are in these positions like we have been against Brighton and Liverpool.
“Every game is big. Nobody would have given us a chance against Liverpool, a lot of pundits and everyone saying Liverpool one step closer to the title and I get that. There’s 50 odd points between us and they are flying high, I get that. But anybody coming to the game would have been saying West Ham have been different class.
“The manager’s trying to get that consistency in our performances, to stop conceding goals to give us a chance.
“There’s no added pressure [being West Ham]. Every game in the Premier League brings the pressure.
“As a footballer you put pressure on yourself. It’s now just about keep working hard for each other, keep believing in each other and to come off the pitch and say I couldn’t have given any more.
“We’ve run the world champions, the European champions very close. Luck at certain times has gone against us. It’s hard playing against them when it’s normal, but when deflections go in their path or the keeper making a mistake, that’s very unlike Lukasz, it’s difficult to take. But that’s football. When you’re down there, sometimes things go against you.
“What do we need to get out of trouble? Performances like that, goals and not conceding goals. It’s not rocket science. If you don’t make mistakes then you are going to give yourselves a chance.”
Snodgrass added: “We’ve done well against Brighton and now against Liverpool.
“But it’s a lot of good work that goes to waste because you are thinking ‘how have we not got anything from that game?’.
“People will be watching saying ‘how’s West Ham down the bottom?’. But then you look at mistakes like that and that’s maybe why. We need to stop that.
“We know as footballers if we do that and produce performances like that [against Liverpool] then we will pick up more points on the board.
“You can see belief there. There was only team at 2-1 that was going to go on and win it. We had some great chances and I felt as if we took them then we could put the game aside.
“But this is why they are what they are, a top side. You know if you don’t take those chances and they are always going to come into it at some stage and that’s what they did.”