A North East Tartan Army member is celebrating 20 years of travelling to watch Scotland.
For Aberdonian Steven McDonald, Thursday’s clash with Georgia in Tbilisi will be his 36th away fixture following the national team.
McDonald’s first overseas Scotland game was against Germany in Dortmund in 2003, having attended matches at Hampden prior to that.
This successful European Championship campaign is the first time the 38-year-old gone to every game in a qualifying section.
‘I’ve met some great people’
McDonald – who is also an Aberdeen season-ticket holder – was born with cerebral palsy, but hasn’t let that stop him from cheering on Scotland.
He said: “I was born with mild cerebral palsy.
“When I was child, I had to wear splints and things like that – but by nine or 10 I outgrew them.
“At school I was very energetic when it came to PE and things like that, and as the years have gone on, I’ve grown stronger and stronger.
“Anyone can enjoy football and I’ve met some great people through football.
“I’m thinking: ‘where’s the time gone?’ It’s hard to believe it’s 20 years since my first away trip.
“When I was younger I struggled with confidence, but I’ve met some great mates through football and it’s really helped me.
“In 2019, I was travelling to Belgium for a Scotland game and to meet people I knew in Belgium. I put a message on the Tartan Army Facebook page to see if anybody would be willing to share transport with me and a couple of guys from Falkirk got in touch and I’ve been on a number of away trips with them since then.
“There’s a great camaraderie among the Scotland supporters.
“I became part of the North East Tartan Army group after meeting one of the boys in Tirana in 2019. So I go to home games on that bus and it’s superb.
“This is the first time I’ve gone to every game in a qualifying campaign and it’s been great to do it.”
Ups and downs over the decades
McDonald’s time watching Scotland has encompassed the reigns of Berti Vogts, Walter Smith, Alex McLeish (twice), George Burley, Craig Levein, Gordon Strachan and Steve Clarke.
He is keen to savour the current success under Clarke, who has led the national team to consecutive European Championships.
Although Scotland ended up not qualifying McDonald – who is planning to attend next summer’s tournament in Germany – picks out the Euro 2008 campaign as another highlight.
Defeat to Georgia in October 2007 was a pivotal blow to Scotland’s hopes of qualifying on that occasion, but this time around Clarke’s side have already got the job done.
McDonald added: “This has been a great period and I suppose it has been the best in my time.
“But 2006 and 2007 under Walter Smith and then Alex McLeish was an incredible period as well.
“To beat France at home and then to beat them in the Parc des Princes with that goal from James McFadden was incredible.
“Out of all the away games I’ve gone to the France game would be up there as the best.
“Going to Georgia this time will be different, because when we’ve gone there in the past, like in 2007, we needed a result to try to reach the Euros. But we don’t need that this time!”