Scotland coach Steven Reid has seen first hand what qualifying for a major tournament means.
The crowds that flocked to the airport on Ireland’s victorious return from Iran in 2001 signified the importance of just what making the World Cup meant to the country.
Circumstances may be much different this time around but the significance is no less. Victory for Scotland in Belgrade on Thursday night hands Scotland a place at the delayed European Championship, in what would be their first tournament since the 1998 World Cup.
Reid admits to letting big games pass him by as a player. He is determined to soak in a little bit more should Scotland triumph against Serbia.
He said: “This is a chance to make history. I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in qualifying for a major tournament as a player – and it’s a moment that doesn’t come round too often.
“Hopefully it’s not – but it can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in a major tournament.
“I want to go into it and sample it again as a coach, try to enjoy every minute. Because, when you’re in it as a player, sometimes the top moments in your career can pass you by. That goes for club football and international football.
“We have to embrace this, leave nothing out on the pitch. Hopefully that’s enough for us to qualify, then go on and have a successful tournament next year.”
Ireland qualified for that tournament via the play-offs too; a 2-0 win in Dublin was followed by a nervy 1-0 defeat in Tehran to secure a place at Japan/South Korea in 2002.
Scotland did it the hard way but showed little nerves in the penalty shoot-out win over Israel last month. They were perfect from the spot, at an empty Hampden Park, to earn a play-off final berth.
Reid added: “Going back to when I was involved in it, because crowds were back in and you were aware of the magnitude of it – we had a play-off game in Iran and when you got back to the Republic there’s people waiting at the airport.
“That’s going to be different. The fact that it’s free to view is massive. We’re going to know the support is there and everyone can get access to the game. You can’t get around what a different and difficult situation this is but hopefully by next summer, if we do get qualified, things might be different and we can have everyone there to get behind us in person.”
It was a misty morning at @OriamScotland, as the first training session of our triple-header took place.
👀 Good to see a few familiar faces back in camp. pic.twitter.com/f8PdCXvrIe
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) November 9, 2020
A number of familiar faces have been recalled to the squad after missing out last time. Stuart Armstrong, Kieran Tierney and Ryan Christie – who all missed the last triple-header due to Armstrong’s positive Covid-19 test – plus Scott McKenna, Liam Palmer and Leigh Griffiths all return.
However, there is an acknowledgement by the coaching staff to what the players present for the Israel, Slovakia and Czech Republic games achieved.
“You can’t discount what the players in the last camp have done, three fantastic results and performances, clean sheets. So you can’t discount that,” said Reid.
“But, at the same time, it needs to be games taken in isolation. We need the right players, the right team for that opposition.
“It’s not always necessarily the best players but the best blend of squad and team to go in and win the game.”
Ryan Fraser and Grant Hanley, however, will not be part of the squad after both withdrew with hamstring complaints. At this stage there are no plans to add anyone else to what is now a 25-man pool.
“Obviously Ryan being out is a disappointment. He stepped it up in the last camp – and that was without a massive amount of minutes, having got the late move Newcastle.
“He was still getting up to speed but did really well, so it’s a disappointment.
“But we’ve got Ryan Christie back available after the last camp and Stuart Armstrong in great form, as well. Hopefully we’ve got more than enough to deal with a couple of injuries.”