Gibraltar away on a warm autumn night in the Algarve. The Tartan Army could scarcely have picked a better location to see out the Euro 2016 qualification campaign. Sun, sea and e2 pints of lager. It’s just a shame the celebrations we all envisaged in the aftermath of Shaun Maloney’s winner against Ireland never came to fruition.
Instead, thousands of inebriated Scots swayed into the away stand of the Estadio Algarve to witness what was, in essence, a glorified friendly. While that may be a negative on the campaign as a whole, it at least gave the travelling fans the chance to do what they do best: sing, be merry, and enjoy themselves without having to worry about seemingly inevitable heartbreak. Flower of Scotland was belted out in traditional patriotic gusto with special, almost poetic, emphasis placed on the “and we can still rise now” part of the national anthem.
The future of the manager had dominated discussions pre-match, and two minutes into the game the Tartan Army made their preferred option clear as chants of “there’s only one Gordon Strachan” echoed around the stadium. It was a small gesture, but one which could go a long way to convincing the man himself to stay on for another campaign.
Scotland still put on a professional and upbeat display despite the all-encompassing cloud of disappointment hanging over the squad. Six goals may not be an eye-catching return from a fixture against European football’s most minute of minnows, but it was enough to keep the kilted supporters in a party mood.
Thursday is still too fresh to be forgotten, but in bars around the Algarve talk had already moved on to Scotland’s chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Glorious failure may be a term Scots fans are sick to the back teeth of hearing, but there will always be a twinkle of positivity and expectation things will be different next time.
With 90 minutes having been and gone – the full repertoire of songs used up – the Tartan Army eagerly headed for the exits, desperate to make the most of all the Algarve night had to offer before being sent homeward, to hope again.