“I haven’t felt that good since Archie Gemmill scored against Holland in 1978.” Irvine Welsh spoke for many Scots in identifying that moment as the epitome of joy.
After the two disastrous World Cup games, Scotland finally showed they really could be world-beaters. All we needed was one more goal to put us back on the path to glory, but just three minutes later a Johnny Rep thunderbolt killed the dream. A nation wept. There is a nebulous quality to confidence. Did it die along with the dream that day for Scotland’s footballers? Flashes of brilliance – like James McFadden’s winning wonderstrike against France in 2007 – aside, do our players lack the self-belief to be world-beaters ever again? Without hope, greatness is hard to achieve.
More concerning is the idea that Scotland as a nation suffers from this affliction, dubbed the “cultural cringe”. In 2004, the then First Minister Jack McConnell said this attitude must end, adding: “Poverty of ambition and poverty of expectation is the most damaging poverty of all.” To paraphrase a certain world leader, it’s time to make Scotland Gemmill again.