Just when you think things can’t get much worse following Scotland, the nation has had to endure a qualifying campaign which will go down in history as calamitous, painful and, quite frankly, pathetic.
Our ‘efforts’ in trying to make the 2020 European Championships via the conventional qualifying route have seen an embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Kazakhstan, the hollow figure of Alex McLeish come and go, new boss Steve Clarke enter and 4-0 hammerings at the hands of Belgium and Russia among many other lowlights.
Going into tomorrow’s Group I clash with San Marino at Hampden, second-bottom Scotland only really have a modicum of pride and third place to play for with the footballing powerhouses of Cyprus and the Kazakhs still within their grasp.
The guaranteed Nations League play-off place, won under McLeish’s reign, is now our only way of making a first major tournament in 22 years.
That length of absence is a sad state of affairs for the game in this country and one which certainly doesn’t look like ending any time soon.
Clarke is certainly not the sole reason why the national team is in the state it is in, far from it.
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However, he is maybe the only hope the Scots have going forward.
The former Kilmarnock boss has a major task on his hands to turn around a side which is broken and bereft of confidence.
For me, though, he is still the best man for the job and a morale-boosting comfortable win over minnows San Marino tomorrow could spark a set of results which at least restore some belief in the national team and eliminate any apathy which might exist going into the crucial Nations League play-offs.
Next month sees a trip to Cyprus and the visit of Kazakhstan to Hampden to close the campaign and victory in those is now a must for Scotland and the man who did such a good job in turning Killie’s fortunes around.
Part of Clarke’s success in Ayrshire was getting the best out of the men available to him and, not blessed with the highest quality players or the deepest pool of talent, he is well-qualified to lead Scotland into a brave new dawn.
That seems a long way off now but, with the worst of the pain now seemingly over, Clarke must be given time to blaze a trail to the future and treat the scars of what has been a most-excruciating of campaigns.
How he does that? Your guess is as good as mine.