I was harbouring the almost contemptuous belief that this international was nothing more than what an historical society would attempt in trying to recreate battles of the past with their plastic swords and tomato sauce blood: a pallid simulation of past times. It was difficult to get the head round a one-off game celebrating English football's longevity, played in a month so foreign to the tradition it was like asking me to celebrate Ne'erday to the September weekend. How phoney can you get?
It wouldn't work.
Well, it did. It worked in the most basic sense that, alongside many others I am sure, I felt sucked into an identity with the national side that I haven't experienced in years. Nothing that might blind me to inadequacies. Nothing that would associate with an overwhelming sense of relief that we avoided what might have been a drubbing, given our recent past, but in simply watching a team which did not look out of place when we thought they might look like they had entered the stadium through the tradesman's entrance, against a team whose pedigree and swank and money suggest they train on the lawns of Downtown Abbey.
Then came the defeat. A Wembley defeat is like no other. A new generation went down south this week with little experience of how to take in the possibility of defeat. So let them be praised for taking it all in good heart, although the novelty of a visit to London was in itself a palliative that helped much. But now that they have sampled all that it is certain they will demand more of the same.
Yet a certain perspective has to be kept before we go exploring avenues that our impoverishment of talent simply cannot sustain. Losing there, too often in the past, seemed to suggest a national loss of virility in those days when you could hardly spot an Englishman anywhere near the stadium. The massive exodus brought with it the natural inclination to be triumphalist even though cold logic suggested at times that there was little chance of success. Too many believed in the divine right to rule because, as the smaller nation, we could provide enough world-class players to spar with anybody. Then came the catastrophes.
After the 9-3 thrashing of 1961, I initially left the stadium in search of the Samaritans. But what did I find? That the Scottish fans were making hay with their own brand of humour. Before I got to the first tube station, I was hearing some say that the big mistake was to play with an orange ball. Frank Haffey of Celtic, the suffering goalkeeper, wouldn't handle it; Bobby Shearer or Rangers, the full-back wouldn't kick it. That was in the good old days.
Then bitterness crept it. I first experienced it in 1971 on the last game under Bobby Brown's management: Scotland were so outplayed it would have brought tears to your eyes.
As it so happened a sponsor in a huge limousine took us to the game and, after the commentary, we were in the car park waiting to move off when a group of irate men in tartan, but looking like a Comanche raiding-party attacking a wagon train, descended on us and, on recognising me, assumed this was the Scottish Football Association international committee inside the luxury vehicle. Only the police saved us as they tried to overturn the limo with the chant: "Brown Must Go!" I was tempted to join the chorus to prove I would rather travel with orangutans than with these hapless selectors.
But that feeling of indignation and anger afflicted me just as badly in the commentary box. I had to act with unnatural restraint in 1975. The game was over within 20 minutes when England were three goals to the good and the Scotland goalkeeper Stewart Kennedy looked as if he wanted to run out of the stadium like Forrest Gump and into the void: an experience from which he never recovered. To endure the rest of the game merely watching must have been like having root canal treatment. To have had to talk about it for the rest of the 70 minutes was like walking over red-hot coals.
So Wembley produces another defeat from which we can learn some harsh lessons, if not read too much into it other than that we enjoyed the experience. Firstly, we are not as bad as we thought we were; and there has been plenty evidence of that in the past. Nor are we as good as this game occasionally made us look and we might have conceded more near the end. We also now recognise the simple fact that at last Scotland have picked the right manager, somebody who catches the mood of sensible optimism.
We should not be making a clamour for the regularity of this fixture, though. We have so many problems in our domestic game, and which affect many more than those who follow Scotland, that it would be almost indecent to provide this luxury item of a game to please the Tartan Army when accountants tell us that some clubs could go under, while others are so drained financially they can only play kids.
We have to put our own house in order before we start making regular pilgrimages down south again.