They have had to carry the hopes of a nation on their shoulders but the Scotland players deserve every plaudit which has come their way after ending our long wait to be back at a major finals.
Thursday’s Euro 2020 playoff win in Serbia has sparked celebrations among the Tartan Army which have been long overdue and the outpouring of emotion from the players and the fans has been fantastic to see.
It has shown me, despite all the disappointments in the last two decades, that the national team still stirs the emotions of us all more than we perhaps realised.
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) November 13, 2020
There was a nervous excitement about us all in the countdown to Thursday’s game in Serbia, but, if there was any apprehension in the team, they certainly did not show it in Belgrade.
For a relatively new and younger group of players – with the exception of veteran David Marshall – they stood tall when it mattered most to deliver a famous win.
The players showed no fear whatsoever. I don’t know if that was due to so many of the guys who performed being younger or lacking in international experience, but – to a man – every guy who was out there stood up and performed for the cause.
They were so cool, calm and collected and not just in the penalty shootout.
For 70 minutes I’d suggest it was one of the best performances I’ve seen from a Scottish team, especially away from home, in years and my only disappointment is that I didn’t see the guys get a second goal for their efforts.
For so long it looked like Ryan Christie’s goal would be enough until the last-minute equaliser and I’m sure I was not the only one fearing the worst as the players looked out on their feet.
But again, they stood tall to come through a testing additional 30 minutes of extra-time to take the tie to penalties before repeating their feat of the semi-final shootout win against Israel at Hampden last month by scoring all five kicks.
It has been a horrible year for us all, so to see Scotland ending 2020 with a place in next summer’s finals is brilliant.
Our group is a really tough one and the games against the Czech Republic and Croatia at Hampden are going to be really challenging, but clearly the match which has really whetted the appetite is the trip to Wembley to face England.
The games against the Auld Enemy are always memorable and it does not matter where the nations are in the world rankings or what sort of form they are in.
I just hope the fans are able to go to the games next summer.
We’ve waited so long for this moment and the old rivalry just would not be the same without the fans in attendance.
Blades man lacking sharpness for scots
I am not convinced Oli McBurnie is up to the task of leading the line for Scotland.
I shouldn’t rush to judge, but when you have scored no goals in 14 appearances for your country then it’s inevitable you are going to come under scrutiny.
That is the position the Sheffield United striker now finds himself in and the instant impact made by Lyndon Dykes has added to the contrast of McBurnie’s barren run in front of goal.
McBurnie puts in a power of work for his team at club and country level, but a striker is judged on his goals just as a goalkeeper is judged on his saves, and the forward has come up short.
Dykes has established himself as the first choice striker and Ryan Christie has been excellent in linking up in the No 10 role behind him.
I’m confident Dykes, who was excellent on Thursday in Serbia, would have scored one of the chances which McBurnie had in Sunday’s 1-0 defeat in Slovakia.
Rightly or wrongly, when one player is doing well the contrast with a rival who isn’t having the same impact becomes a hot topic and that is why McBurnie’s lack of goals has become a talking point.
There is only one way he is going to change it. I hope once he breaks his duck the goals will start to flow but it is human nature that he will be starting to feel the heat.
Toughest challenge possible for county
Ross County have been given the toughest task possible after being drawn away to holders Celtic in the last-16 of the Betfred Cup.
The results in the cup during the international break will have given everyone at Victoria Park a huge confidence boost and I am sure Stuart Kettlewell was hoping for a kinder draw.
But, if you want to do well in any competition then you have to overcome a significant hurdle at some point and they don’t come any tougher than Neil Lennon’s side.
The Staggies have a good group of professionals and I am sure they will be excited at the challenge they now have. Celtic have found some form but County should go to Celtic Park with belief.
Aberdeen have also been given a tough tie away to St Mirren. The Dons knocked Saints out of the Scottish Cup on their own patch earlier in the season and were pushed all the way by Jim Goodwin’s side when they visited Pittodrie on league duty.
Derek McInnes’s side should edge it, but Saints will be no pushovers.