Reflections on a devastating loss for the Scottish national football team.
Sometimes it's really hard being Scottish. Irvine Welsh wrote about this in his epic novel Trainspotting and my Scottish mate Gary explained Welsh's words reflected his feelings after the Scots lost 2-0 to the Czech Republic in their opening game in the European Championships.
Welsh's anti-hero Mark Renton says: "It's shite being Scottish! We're the lowest of the low, the scum of the fucking earth, the most wretched, miserable, servile, pathetic trash that was ever shat into civilization. Some people hate the English, I don't. They're just wankers. We, on the other hand, are colonised by wankers. We can't even find a decent culture to be colonised by. We are ruled by effete arseholes. It's a shite state of affairs to be in, Tommy! And all the fresh air in the world won't make any fucking difference!"
How bad is that? I felt terrible after what was really a pretty good performance on the pitch by Scotland (if only the score was irrelevant), but Gary's message to me threatened to send me spiralling into a bleak place as dark as any wet Glasgow winter's night.
But, I refuse to go there. Admittedly, it might be easier for me, with my Aussie/Scot dual loyalties, to see the bright side but I'm going to run with it. So, before analysing the two (I concede important) negative issues (being the goals scored by the Czech Republic), I will outline a few positive points.
1. There was a crowd (10,000 or so I think) at the game at Hampden Park in Glasgow, which in these Covid days is invigorating. And, they were loud ... very loud. And they apparently even clapped the losing Scottish team off the park. Nice.
2. Scotland had more possession, more shots at goal and looked as good as the Czechs in all departments, except putting the ball in the back of the net.
3. Scotland's team (and squad) is generally quite young and will learn from the experience.
4. Aston Villa's John McGinn is a superb, fighting midfielder who belongs on the world stage and, at 26, will only get better in the dark blue of Scotland.
5. Skipper Andy Robertson is world class. I don't think there are too many left wing backs of his quality doing the rounds anywhere. His non-stop display was an inspiration and something for shattered Scottish fans to grasp and hold tight to.
5. The Scots never put their heads down and were trying to score even in the dying seconds.
6. There were mistakes that cost two goals, but every Scottish player looked capable. Sure they didn't score, but strikers Lyndon Dykes (25) and Che Adams (24) looked threatening at times and could become a lethal partnership if properly nurtured over the next few years.
7. Arguably Scotland's most talented and dangerous player, Kieran Tierney (24), missed the game through injury and should be back for the clash with the Auld Enemy, England at Wembley.
8. The subs (Adams, Callum McGregor (28), Ryan Fraser (27), James Forrest (29) and Kevin Nisbet (24) were lively and each had their moments. This emphasises a depth Scotland hasn't had for a long while. And, perhaps the Scottish player with the most potential, Chelsea's Billy Gilmour, was unused and should get his opportunity some time in the next two tough clashes.
OK, that's it for positives. I was trying to get to 10, but I ran out of steam.
Now, for the two negatives.
1. The first Czech goal. Amateur hour really. Recycled ball from a set piece found its way to Patrik Schick who simply nodded it into the goal with perfect precision. Grant Hanley, having a fine game to that moment, was perhaps responsible, but this Schick bloke is pretty damned good.
2. What can you say about the second goal. It was a screamer from 49m. Yep, that Schick bloke is pretty good. But, what was Jack Hendry doing shooting from distance and giving the ball away via a ricochet to Schick; where were the markers for Schick, the most dangerous player on the paddock; and what was goalie David Marshall doing so far up the field, presenting an essentially open goal for Schick's bomb?
So, now it's on to the Auld Enemy England at Wembley on Saturday morning Sydney time. The thing is, if Scotland win that game it will be as good as winning the tournament as far as the Scottish fans are concerned. Beating England is the ultimate for any Scottish team. So bring it on.