Euros 2024: Scotland Fans Are Ready!

Former Scotland player turned writer, Pat Nevin, understands better than most how important this Euro 2024 tournament is for the country

The Euro 2024 opening game against Germany is Scotland’s most auspicious match since the 1998 World Cup scene-setter against Brazil. I was in the cavernous Stade De France that day, and from the moment the players walked out clad in their kilts, it was clear that it would be a special occasion.

The result didn’t go our way, but for the fans in the stadium, others on the Parisian boulevards and those who were watching back home on TV, as well as all the Scottish players and staff, it was a moment of searing national pride on the world stage. Fortunately, no one let the country down.

At 8pm on June 14 in the equally impressive Allianz Arena, all that pride and passion will be back. Where else would you rather be?

Steve Clarke has guided the team on an incredible journey since he became manager and, let’s be honest, we had a long way to go. Participation in major competitions had morphed from expectation to dream since those heady days of 1998.

The Tartan Army in France in 1998.

We came close a few times, but when Steve led us to the Euros in 2021, almost a quarter of a century later, we knew things had changed. That qualification, then this one for Germany, were no flukes, and they created some fabulous memories on the way.

Penalty shoot-out wins against Israel and Serbia were only tasters. Then there was the draw against England at Wembley, when we were the better side.

Reporting pitchside, I could feel the players’ belief grow. After that, they believed they could compete against the best again.

Scott McTominay’s 94th minute winner against Israel at Hampden Park sealed the new deal between the Tartan Army and this new group.

From Durness to Dumfries, the hordes would now mass at the home games again, filling those empty spaces at Hampden Park.

The fans instinctively knew this team was fighting for the cause with all the passion they demanded, and Steve Clarke had created the passion that sealed the bond.

This is why, when the negative results inevitably happened, the fans stood strong behind the squad. The Tartan Army knew it was needed.

The Danes were then crushed at Hampden, and even the once mighty Spanish were sent homeward tae think again.

There is a great debate to be had about what is the best moment so far in the Clarke era. I have been at almost every game and must say, it is hard to beat that magical night in Oslo in June 2023. Trailing 1-0 after an Erling Haaland penalty, Steve Clarke waited for the opposition to tire or make a mistake. Not unlike the moment in Braveheart when Wallace coached his troops when charged, I could almost hear our manager say, “Hold! Hold! Hold!” The Norwegians erred, substituting Haaland in the belief the job was done.

Scotland then released fresh reserves to devastating effect. I didn’t think I would experience a better campaign moment than Lyndon Dykes’ 87th minute equaliser but was proven wrong 104 seconds later by Kenny McLean’s winner. If you weren’t screaming at that moment, then perhaps you aren’t Scottish, a football fan or, indeed, a human being with a pulse.

At that moment we knew. It was time to start planning for Germany.

Euros 2024 looks promising for Scotland

An upside of reaching two Euro finals in a row is that the players have gained vital tournament experience, and I have no fears for this group. John McGinn, Scott McTominay, Andrew Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Callum McGregor and the rest have all played at the top level against the world’s best and rarely flinched. Even the younger ones such as Billy Gilmour, Aaron Hickey, Ryan Porteous and the like share their boss’s measured belief.

Playing for Scotland at Euro 92 in Sweden, we weren’t frightened by world champions Germany or European champions the Netherlands being in our group, even if they had Gullit, Van Basten, Bergkamp and Rijkaard. Paul McStay, Gary McAllister, Richard Gough and Andy Goram all wanted to be judged on an equal footing with them.

Pat Nevin playing against San Marino in 1995.

The current side should feel the same. They should be confident of going toe to toe with this Germany team, even on their own turf. We will be underdogs for sure, but we Scots have always savoured that position. In 92 we were competitive in each game, our 3-0 hammering of CIS – Russia to you and me – underlining that we could have created history and qualified from a more forgiving group.

The Swiss and the Hungarians will not be easy this summer, but it’s definitely possible, and our squad’s exceptional spirit will stand us in good stead.

Another similarity with 1992 is the special bond between the team and the fans. They cheered and serenaded us after going out, because they knew every player had given everything. They could never know how much that helped us. When Stevie Clarke played for his country, he must have felt that same connection and understood its value. It shows in what he has built.

Every time a Scot pulls on that blue shirt, they know it is a glorious honour, but doing it in major tournaments has to be the pinnacle.

A wider consideration is the importance these games have to the nation and how we view ourselves. It is the national sport but it is also the national obsession.

Rightly or wrongly, we measure ourselves by how we perform in football. We were lessened in 1978 by the Argentinian campaign but bolstered by qualifying for six out of seven World Cups until 1998.

A good showing in these Euros will lift the entire nation. Personally, I am as confident as I can be… for a Scotsman.

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