Newsnetscotland.com is delighted to welcome guest sports writer Stephen Coutts fresh from Thursday’s win in the Best Sports Writer category at the Scottish Student Press Awards sponsored by the Herald. Stephen is a major contributor to football blogging website The Dirty Tackle which won the best use of Multimeda at the awards.
By Stephen Coutts
Following the Scottish national football side should come with a government health warning direct from Nicola Sturgeon – they manage to put their fans through the emotional wringer every time they take to the field.
As Scotland lie on the cusp of lifting the Carling Nations Cup we must understand the fans’ ritual of a Scotland matchday that reads like a drawn-out courting ceremony. Like an aloof teenager, the Scotland fan sees the potential in the side, while the team woos the fan with tales of its proud history and classic games.
The Scotland-struck fan spends a fortune on travelling to drink/eat/cheer the side to victory and talks non-stop about the outcome of the game, while the team frolics, bats their eyelids and laughs at the fans’ jokes before leading said fan up the garden path – then saying goodnight and closing the door in the fans’ face.
And to further stoke the fans’ internal fire, the media army talk of ‘joining the team for the big win’ – but when it appears the result may go awry they hide away in their foxholes attaching their bayonets and laying in wait, ready to cross the wire with the shrill of the early edition whistle.
Let’s take a recent example: after the highs of beating France home and away and the lows of turning up on a wet Wednesday to view a 0-0 draw with a former Eastern Bloc side, Scotland’s bedraggled win over Liechtenstein last September did not look like it would propel them to their first major tournament after 14 years of foraging in the footballing wilderness.
Harking back, Stephen McManus’ late winner must have been like rubbing salt into an open wound for Liechtenstein who had put up a dogged fight for 96 minutes – while the quarter-full [we can see you sneaking out] Hampden rejoiced like they had just beaten Argentina in the World Cup Final.
Out of pocket and psychologically traumatised the mixed emotions from the home fans after the goal and final whistle said it all – it’s three points! Cheer up, man we won! We’re on the march! and the ever poignant ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and the overused ‘I’m getting to old for this [enter Lethal Weapon quote here].’
Since that match the Scots’ football has slightly improved – the 3-2 defeat at the hands of World Champions Spain was undoubtedly very exciting, though their pride took a denting when they succumbed 2-0 to an exciting young Brazil.
After the 3-0 demolition of Northern Ireland earlier in the year, the come-from-behind 3-1 win over Wales on Wednesday in Dublin has given Scotland a glimpse of a trophy, albeit one that is more beer money than champagne style.
Forget the Carling Nations Cup’s status, the hard-paying and much-travelled fans will be looking towards the reality of a real chance of celebrating victory in the inaugural tournament.
Levein will almost certainly stick to the 4-4-2 formation that eventually proved successful against the Welsh, and if anyone says Wales are not a big name side, remind them that the Republic of Ireland are, as it contains 17 letters.
Expect Kenny Miller to start up front, with Scott Brown leading the midfield and Charlie Adam bound to be trying to advertise his skills as he seeks a move away from relegated Blackpool. Former Celtic loan player Robbie Keane is Ireland’s key man for his scoring prowess, especially as the Republic is missing several players.
Scotland must win – because of the round-robin nature of the tournament, any other result gives the Irish the cup.
The venue is the Aviva Stadium, Dublin, on Sunday with kick off at 6.30pm. Live on Sky Sports.
Prediction: another three goals for Scotland in a 3-2 or 3-1 win.