Scotland have the chance to qualify for a first major tournament in 22 years when they travel to Serbia for a Euro 2020 playoff final on Thursday.
Not since the World Cup in 1998 when the Tartan Army descended on France have Scottish fans had the chance to see their nation on the biggest stage.
“I’ve never experienced Scotland qualifying for a tournament so every single campaign that comes around I dream of that feeling when it’s finally clinched,” said Laura Brannan a self-confessed “proud but tortured” member of the Tartan Army. “It would mean everything to get over the line and be invited to the party for once.”
A huge hurdle remains in Belgrade against a Serbia side ranked 15 places above Scotland in the FIFA rankings and boasting a side containing the likes of Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ajax’s Dusan Tadic.
However, an eight-game unbeaten run over the past year has restored hope among Scotland fans that a talented squad, filled with proven Premier League performers such as Liverpool’s Andy Robertson, Arsenal defender Kieran Tierney and Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn, can end the long wait.
“That dream is always there when you start out a campaign, you think this is going to be the one,” said Scotland manager Steve Clarke.
Clarke’s often dour demeanour in public belies a spirit of belief he has harnessed since taking charge after the wreckage of a 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan in March 2019.
“Maybe before we were looking after ourselves,” said Ryan Fraser, who will miss Thursday’s clash through injury, after scoring the winner against the Czech Republic in the Nations League last month.
“Now we’ve got that morale and togetherness that if someone makes a mistake you bail them out because they will bail you out next time.
“There’s no cliques or little groups. Everyone is smiling again and everyone wants to come away and play for Scotland.”
‘Just our luck’
There have been brief moments to saviour amid Scotland’s largely torturous two decades of failure.
Famous victories home and away against France were still not enough to reach Euro 2008 with world champions Italy also in a devilishly difficult group.
England and the Netherlands were also beaten in playoffs for Euro 2000 and 2004 but Scotland were defeated over two legs.
Yet embarrassing defeats were more common. Twice in Tbilisi to Georgia, in Macedonia and the debacle of Kazakhstan, plus draws in Moldova and the Faroe Islands.
Of UEFA’s 55 nations, only 19 have failed to reach a major tournament since Scotland last did.
“There is a whole generation who have just never experienced a major tournament and what it’s like,” said Anthony Joseph, Sky Sports journalist and member of the Portlethen Tartan Army.
The carrot for qualification is even greater as Scotland would host two of their three group games at Hampden should they reach Euro 2020 and the tournament proceed as planned in 12 countries across the continent.
Opulence and muddy boots make for a Lake District destination with fine food and views
Sunday, 8th November 2020, 5:30 pm
A warm winter welcome awaits at Rothay Garden Hotel near Grasmere, Cumbria, which opens again on 2 December.
The moment you swing your vehicle into the gravelled car park of the Rothay Garden Hotel, you just know you are in for a quality Lake District experience.
I visited shortly after Lockdown 1 and it was immediately apparent that health and safety and covid guidelines were being taken extremely seriously.
Sign up to our daily newsletter
The i newsletter cut through the noise
Guests are expected to wear masks in the hotel unless eating or drinking; rooms have stickers on the room doors to highlight a deep clean has taken place and housekeeping do not enter the room during your stay. However, you can request towels, toiletries etc at any time.
Grasmere is an ideal base for walking and exploring The Lake District when restrictions allow.
Rothay Garden is renowned for good food and wine and it also boasts stunning accommodation, a fabulous spa, beautiful gardens and it is in an amazing location in Grasmere.
Following the UK Government’s four-week lockdown announcement, the hotel is looking forward to reopening and welcoming guests back on December 2.
Oh, my word, boutique all the way. It is a luxuriously elegant Grade II listed country house retreat.
View from the balcony of one of the rooms at the four-star, Grade II listed, boutique country house hotel, which has two acres of gardens for guests to enjoy.
This four-star hotel delivers a fabulously unique combination of oozing opulence while welcoming muddy boot wearers. Dogs are also welcomed and there are plenty of areas for our four-legged friends around the hotel and they can join their owners in the Brathay Lounge at dining times.
And for a spot of decadence, the classic afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, home-made scones with clotted cream and home-made jam, mini cakes and desserts is not to be missed.
The Rothay Garden’s bedrooms and suites, 30 in total, have won numerous awards.There are six different tiers of bedrooms and suites, all spacious and individually decorated, many with a balcony, French doors or private patio offering the most incredible views.
The Garden Restaurant at Rothay Garden is celebrated for its cuisine and one of only a handful in the area to have consistently been awarded two coveted AA rosettes.
I stayed in the junior loft suite Stone Arthur which is named after the fell over which it looks. It is on the hotel’s second floor and had the comfiest king size bed and separate seating area.
The food at Rothay Gardens is exceptional and is the best I’ve had in Grasmere, Ambleside and Windermere over the last few years.
The restaurant is celebrated for its cuisine and one of only a handful in the area to have consistently been awarded two coveted AA rosettes.