Andrew Smith: Keen young fans help lift sombre mood surrounding Scotland national team

Scotland fans at Hampden on a dreich night in Glasgow
Scotland fans at Hampden on a dreich night in Glasgow
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Hampden was supposed to have been a mausoleum to a Euro 2020 group campaign that Scotland are desperate to see interred. Yet, in truth, it wasn’t at all.

For all that the crowd was sparse - though entirely in keeping with recent numbers, rather than in line with the grave predictions of a record low - and the conditions caused by sheet rain absolutely attrocious, there have been far more miserable occasions at the national stadium. Far, far more miserable.

And isn’t that just an indication of the juncture at which we find ourselves in with the international game that a minor cause for satisfaction is that the absolute and utter worst didn’t quite come to pass?

Incredibly, considering the circumstances the punters proved quite perky. No doubt, the fact that regular cries of “Scotland, Scotland” were pitched about soprano level provided a possible explanation.

Patently, the record low Hampden crowd for a competitive international of 11,375 against Romania in 1975 wasn’t avoided through some sort of creative accountancy after ticket sales reported to be in the region of 10,000 but simply by giving them away to thousands of youngsters via sports clubs - though the official attendance of 20,699 could not have been solely made up of fresh-faced liggers.

Credit to all such keen-beans, though, for not just turning up were numerous good reasons even to decline a freebie, but deciding they were going to start their October half-term by going into full holiday mode. "Yipee, we’ve no school tomorrow," you almost expected to hear them chant during one of the game’s languers.

Moreover, to an encounter with the lowest ranked team in the world for a Scotland team at its lowest ebb for a decade-and-a-half they brought with them not just a fun-loving attitude but horns - hundreds of honking horns. It was perhaps a product of there being little in the way of general crowd hum, but the horns seemed to proliferate around all four corners of the national stadium, and be honked way more often, in a manner not ordinarily experienced.

The tender age and, you would hope, the avoidance of strong liquor before heading along to Mount Florida on Sunday night ensured these free-wheeling fans had a stamina to keep hollering, honking and hurrahing all the way to the conclusion of an eminently acceptable 5-0 pasting of the poor Sammarinese.

As late as the 75th minute, as if the match mattered and was in the balance, they were still urging on Steve Clarke’s men to grab a sixth goal by raising the pitch to glass-shattering level whenever they drove into the final third.

And, equally, they were left gaffawing when they efforts to do so were increasingly thwarted by the ball sticking in puddles that left the field looking like it belonged in an episode of Peppa Pig.

When the sixth did arrive in the closing minutes, to ensure they were there in person for Scotland’s biggest ever win over San Marino, they produced a roar that did not deserve any Hampden prefix but seemed out of kilter with mundane nature of occasion.

Something to tell their grandchildren. In about half a century.