It is an incredible achievement for Scotland’s men’s team to qualify for next year’s European Championships with two games to spare.
Steve Clarke’s side are confirmed to be Germany-bound next summer, as Norway’s defeat to Spain at the weekend means Scotland cannot finish outside of the top two.
To be in this position is a credit to the squad and what Steve has built throughout this campaign and his time as Dark Blues boss.
This is the second successive Euros the men’s team have qualified for and that reflects how much the team have progressed.
They have clearly bought into Steve’s system and his approach as a manager. And, to me, it feels like every player in the squad knows what their role is when called upon.
For example, when Scott McKenna was drafted in at left centre-back against Spain last week in Kieran Tierney’s absence, nobody really batted an eyelid, because he came in and did exactly what he was entrusted to do.
Another standout factor for me has been the players who have consolidated their place in the squad during this campaign.
It has been great to see players like Ryan Porteous, Jack Hendry and Angus Gunn – all of whom you may not have expected to be key performers at the start of the campaign – really find their feet with the national team.
I think it is quite clear what our strongest starting XI is and Steve has stuck by that, too, and having that consistency has definitely benefited us during the campaign.
Scotland united on and off the pitch
Scotland have been enjoyable to watch during this qualification campaign and have come up against some decent opposition. It was not an easy group to get out of.
Even in the games where we didn’t perform our best, we still found a way to pick up the desired result.
Against Norway in June we didn’t play very well at all for most of the game, but we had belief that we had enough to create opportunities – and we took them in a match-winning two-minute period in the dying stages.
As the team have united on the pitch, it has brought together the fans off it.
In 2019, Hampden was barely half-full, whereas now the Tartan Army is packing out the national stadium.
Of course, winning games helps keeps the fans onside, but it does feel like there has been a real positive shift with the national team’s relationship with the country.
I think Steve Clarke has been vital for that kind of progress.
Since his appointment in 2019, he has remained very level-headed during all the ups and downs, because he knew he was looking to build something – it was not going to be an immediate success.
He has been given the time to do that by the association and, as a result, his process has gained the trust of the players and a nation of football fans.
The men qualifying for the Euros is inspiring to me as a Scottish football fan, but also as the women’s team captain.
After reaching the Euros in 2017 and the World Cup in 2019, we have missed out on the last two major tournaments, which is bitterly disappointing, because we want to be reaching these competitions regularly.
We have to look at the men’s achievement of qualifying and try to take momentum from that and hope we can achieve our aim of getting back to major tournaments.
I certainly feel inspired by the men qualifying, because it has made me want to get that feeling back within the women’s team again.
SWNT squad for Netherlands double-header out
On Wednesday, the women’s team squad for our upcoming Uefa Nations League double-header with the Netherlands was announced.
We play the Netherlands away next Friday, before facing the same opposition at Hampden on Halloween.
A talking point from the squad is the inclusion of Manchester City goalkeeper Sandy MacIver, who has switched allegiances from England – who she was capped by once.
Our manager Pedro Martinez Losa has shown over the last two years since his appointment he wants to look at calling up different kinds of players.
There have been names who have come in and out of the squads, which has helped us as a team. It adds more competition to the squad and keeps players on their toes because nobody’s place in the squad is guaranteed. You have to perform.
Sandy is not the only player in the camp to be called up for the first time as Celtic’s Jenny Smith will also be involved.
I think it is very positive and should give a lot of players optimism that, if they are playing well for their clubs, then they are in contention to come and play for their country.
It feels like the pool of quality players to select from is constantly increasing as the game grows, which can only be a good thing for the team’s fortunes.
The upcoming camp throws up two tough games. The Netherlands have been a top side in Europe for several years now.
It will have only been a month since we were last together for our opening Nations League matches, but during that international break some of our domestic seasons had not yet started.
Now, we have all played much more football and have got ourselves into a good rhythm, which puts us in a better place.
Aberdeen Women need to build on Glasgow City display
It has been a tough time as of late for Aberdeen Women, who host Partick Thistle on Sunday off the back of five straight defeats in all competitions.
However, their last result was a narrow 3-2 loss to reigning SWPL champions Glasgow City, and not many teams run my former club that close.
By all accounts, Aberdeen put in a really good performance and it was avoidable errors which cost them in the end.
That is something to build on this weekend and they will need to show that same resilience.
Not many teams in this league will score two goals against Glasgow City, so that is another positive – but the Dons do need to sharpen up defensively.
If they can get a win against Partick Thistle, it stops the rot. And they could then go into the international break on a positive note and with some momentum behind them.