Nobody, not even the most battle-scarred and haunted campaigner of near misses and glorious failures past, could have quite understood the magnitude of Thursday night until it actually happened – Scotland, finally, qualified for a major tournament.
That’s right, let it sink in.
Euro 2020 next summer will feature Steve Clarke’s Tartan Army – our first finals appearance in 23 years.
Serbia were swatted aside on a sodden night in Belgrade after the drama of conceding a late equaliser, the quivering anxiety of extra time and the sheer nail-biting, watching-through-fingers joy of penalty shoot-out victory. It was Scotland in a nutshell.
Beyond the cliches, there was supreme quality in the finish of Ryan Christie and spot-kick save of David Marshall.
Huge moments which mean we will be there.
And we will be hosting, too. Croatia and the Czech Republic come to Hampden, sandwiching the tastiest of Auld Enemy clashes against England at Wembley in many a year.
The heartache, humiliation and anguish all worth it.
Annihilation in Amsterdam, Georgia, Manuel Enrique Mejuto Gonzalez, 4-6-0, Georgia again, Harry Kane, even Kazakhstan – erased, forgotten.
At last, success. A long-awaited, sweet success.
A success which transcends football – a truly cathartic moment for our nation.
A beleaguered, weary people, battling and fighting through times of great strife with the coronavirus, poverty, unemployment and many other deep societal issues now, at long last, have heroes.
Real heroes to look up to.
We are often portrayed as a dour, hardy folk but our boys, fearless ’90s weans carrying the burden of five million on their shoulders, showed true emotion, passion and undeniable belief.
From first-half goalscorer Christie breaking down in tears in his post-match interview to the exhausted and shocked captain Andy Robertson and absolute ecstasy of potential fall guy Scott McTominay – it had me and many others falling in love with the game and our nation once again.
In truth, football has not been the same during the pandemic but Thursday night felt different.
We really celebrated Christie’s strike and Marshall’s stop. The magnitude of the moments, nor the enjoyment, were not diminished by solitude or social-distancing, in fact, they were heightened.
In our homes we were engrossed, fixated, glued to the telly throughout, heart in mouth. Jumping for joy, screaming, shouting, singing and dancing around living rooms as if to expel a
We are now free from one hex and let’s hope, come June, we are let loose from another to be there with the boys for a huge moment for our nation.
Dundee United fans can rightly revel in Scotland’s generational success having a tangerine tinge in the form of striker Lawrence Shankland.
However, that it is just a tinge should be cause for concern.
A combination of injuries and lack of service has meant Shankland has struggled for form this season, not hitting his usual goalscoring heights.
That has contributed greatly to his lack of gametime for the national team – some had even
suggested his place in the squad altogether was under jeopardy with Kevin Nisbet breathing down his neck.
These facts will not be lost on Shanks, who will now have his sights set on being a part of Scots boss Steve Clarke’s plans for the Euros next summer.
That could be a good thing for the Terrors, who will be hoping the 25-year-old’s form in front of goal picks up.
However, it could go the other way as, by hook or by crook, Shankland, like so many others, will do whatever it takes to be part of the pool to take on Croatia, the Czech Republic and England.
Goalscorers at this level of football are at a premium and plenty of clubs will be interested in securing the United striker’s signature.
Contracted until 2022, there is a bit of wiggle room for the Tangerines but, sadly, I think there’d be no stopping an increasingly-frustrated Shankland.
Dundee’s second season under James McPake’s stewardship is in danger of following a similar pattern as his first – inconsistent.
Although unbeaten in their last three in the league, a win, two draws and a defeat so far is a mixed bag of form they can’t allow to continue if they are to have any title aspirations.
They need a boost going into next weekend at Ayr, a tricky opponent, and, hopefully, Tuesday night’s 3-0 Betfred Cup win over Cove Rangers and tomorrow’s trip to Premiership high-fliers Hibs provides it.
The Dee need to start firing on all cylinders before it’s too late.