The Hope Of The Scottish Nation
As the referee blew his whistle, 50,000 nervous Scot’s held a collective breath.
Hampden park was eerily silent, considering it was packed to the rafters.
Up he stepped. In almost the exact spot he had stood only three minutes previous. He couldn’t possibly do it again could he?
Yet as the ball flew inside Joe Hart’s other post this time, there was a strange sense of inevitability about it all. A sense the capacity crowd had only inhaled in preparation of an exhale of euphoria!
Leigh Griffiths had done it and forever this game would be known as the ‘Griffiths game’.
Now all that was needed was for the Italian referee to have one final puff of the whistle and Scotland would have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
But it never came.
Southgate and Sterling were not sent home to think again as captain Kane broke tartan hearts with the last kick off the ball.
The whole thing was surreal. 10 minutes of football that had been a blur. One of those moments that will stay with you long after. Grown men in kilts shed tears. Staring into the abyss as the brain couldn’t quite dissect what had just happened.
If ever there was a game of football that reflected the last 22 years of being a Scotland fan, that was it.
It’s an old football cliché but it truly is the hope that kills you.
Forget the past
Tonight, we sit with baited breath again. In hope.
As Craig Burley trooped off the St Etienne turf against Morocco all those years ago following his red card, little did we know that it would be the national teams last taste of tournament football for a generation.
A little over 12 months later, we were David Seamen’s right hand away from taking England to extra time in our 1999 playoff, a game the ‘Auld Enemy’ were outplayed and outthought throughout.
It was James McFadden’s turn in 2003, to give us that cause to hope again. For three days we conversed with family, friends and colleagues about what an achievement it was knocking the Dutch out, after McFadden had notched the winner at Hampden on the Saturday. It only took 45 minutes in the return tie in Amsterdam to make us all feel slightly silly.
Again, McFadden was at it, this time in France and THAT goal. Foolish optimism we could traverse the ‘Group of Death’ to qualify for Euro 2008 after defeating the French both home and away. But again, no dice, a hope extinguished.
With more defeats in Georgia than Donald Trump, the national team began to find teams like Macedonia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania and Kazakhstan hard to beat. And so, our time in the international wilderness continued.
Tonight, we can banish all those memories. Vanquish the pain. Dispel the frustrating ‘glorious failure’ myth.
Tonight, we can do it for Dalglish, Law and Jordan. For Baxter’s keepie uppies and Gemmill’s goal. For Walter, Craigy Broon and even wee Bertie as well. For four-six-zero in Prague! And for the thousands of footsoldiers who travel across the globe sporting the navy blue without much return on their commitment.
Tonight, we can remember what it felt like in those six glorious minutes at Hampden in June 2017 against the English. Tonight, we hope.