Scotland national team boss Steve Clarke has challenged his players to do the country proud on their long-awaited return to major tournament football.
The national team kick-off against Czech Republic at 2pm this afternoon, in what will be their first game at a World Cup or European Championships for 23 years.
Clarke and his Scotland squad travelled up from their Darlington training base to Hampden Park yesterday, getting a first-hand taste of the growing support north of the border.
“Everyone is good and we’re all looking forward to the game,” said Clarke. “We can’t wait, really, to be honest. It feels like everyone in the country is excited about the tournament and that’s fantastic.
“That said, I was a little bit nervous on the drive from the airport to the hotel when we were on the M8 and all the cars were slowing down to toot their horns. They were swerving to avoid each other but thankfully there was no incidents!
“Everyone wanted to wish us well and that’s great. So we’re definitely aware of the magnitude of this game and know what it means to everyone.
“Like we keep saying, we just want to get to the game and get started – and hopefully we can achieve a little bit more and do the country proud.”
Clarke has stayed true to his methodical nature in the build-up to the game, with his team already picked well in advance.
“I’ve known the team for a few days now, to be honest,” he said. “But listen, you have to wait and see what happens.
“You never know what can happen in football. But I’ve always had a fair idea of what the team would be for this game.
“I’m aware that the first game is different to the second game and its different to the third one. We have a 26-man squad and I’m hesitant to say I’m going to need all the players. But I’m going to need the vast majority in the squad.
“But the more perceptive within the group might have worked out what the team is by now.”
Like many around the football world, he passed on his best wishes to Christian Eriksen and his family, after the Denmark midfielder collapsed on the field during their game with Finland on Saturday.
Clarke said: “It was a horrible incident. Listen, the only thing for me to say on behalf of my staff, my players and everybody at the Scottish FA is that we wish Christian Eriksen a full and quick recovery.
“I hope his family – who must have found the whole ordeal extremely traumatic – are okay. I hope they get a lot of support and they come through it together. That’s the main thing to say about the incident.
“It was just horrible. As soon as I saw the incident I actually turned the television off and I just went for a walk. It just wasn’t nice to see.
“The Danes are in our World Cup group so the vast majority of our players were watching the game and it was tough. All we can do is wish Christian Eriksen and his family all the best.”