It’s hard to describe what it is like to be a football supporter of the Scottish National team. Most of the time it is a painful experience. It’s not that we’re bad at football. We invented the game and played in the first ever international match against England. We’ve had some great teams and great players over the years. It is the national sport. It’s that we are so often so close to achieving victory, and yet so often we fail at the very last hurdle. Unlucky doesn’t cover it. We have become the masters at glorious failure.
The last time the men’s national team qualified for a major tournament was the World Cup in 1998, held in France. I was 17 years old. Since then, there have been 10 attempts since, and 10 failures. I am now 40. An entire generation has been and gone without seeing Scotland play at a major finals. Grown men have never witnessed that experience. There have been some close calls, but the feeling of despondency spread, and it felt like we would never get there again, until last night.
Last year, Stevie Clarke was given the job of manager of the national team. He took over at a low point. After his initial matches in charge, he and his tactics were not endorsed by some. He stuck with his plan.
Things slowly improved and he led us to a play-off game. One match away from qualifying for the European Championship Finals to be held next summer. Serbia versus Scotland. The nation held it’s breath.
It was unfamiliar. We were winning. We were in the final minute. 1-0 ahead and we were there. And then Serbia equalised. Now it felt familiar. Glorious failure once again. The old superstitions returned. We were unlucky. We were so close.
Extra-time and neither team could score a winner. Scotland held on bravely as Serbia dominated. It went to penalties.
Penalty after penalty went in, 9 in total. Scotland scored all 5. Serbia’s forward Mitrovic had to score to keep Serbia in the game, if he missed Scotland were through. He stepped up, and Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall saved it! Euphoria!
After 22 years, and 10 failed attempts, a sporting nation is finally able to rise up from our knees and be back where we belong. Roll on next summer!