ROLL up, roll up and welcome to Michel Platini’s high-flying, continent-hopping super circus.

With the one-time France virtuoso and UEFA president channelling a wartime Thomas Cook rep in standing by his decision that 2021 is the perfect time to eschew the traditional host-country format of the Euros and take the show on the road, he set the table for a most curious return to the big stage for Scotland after 23 years waiting in the wings.

Delayed a year due to the Covid chaos on the continent, Euro 2020 (no the name hasn’t changed, yes UEFA had already printed the T-shirts), kicked off in Rome last night and will be played in 11 countries across the next month despite the risks and red tape. Pandemic be damned and, to paraphrase Boris Johnson, let the airmiles pile high in their thousands.

All of which leaves the Tartan Army in a strange limbo – unbridled joy at finally seeing our local heroes back amongst the elite, slightly tempered by the disappointment of reduced-capacity stadiums, draconian rules for the lucky few with tickets and restrictions in pubs for the rest.

The hordes of Scots invading London next week will leave their claymores at home, brandishing instead lateral flow tests in the hope of admission to Wembley. Meanwhile, the games at Hampden demand the 12,000 spectators to be in the stadium up to three hours before kick-off, toting their own packed lunch and making do with bottled water as hospitality stands will be closed. A couple of miles away at Glasgow Green, the official UEFA fanzone has caused a stooshie of its own, with critics left livid by perceived special treatment after nine months of lockdown in the city.

Add in the ongoing furore over players taking the knee or not in solidarity against discrimination – read Graeme McGarry’s explainer in the sport pages today for more on this – and it’s shaping up to be the most controversial tournament since the Second World War II (a record that will stand the test of time until precisely this time next year, when the shameful set-up for Qatar 2022 comes under the microscope).

But, putting all the doom and gloom and soapboxes and pearl-clutching aside, it has to be said

– I cannae wait for Monday.

After 15 months of sacrifice and separation, when the whistle blows and Kieran Tierney settles the jangling nerves with his first touch, I’ll feel no guilt in letting the big issues melt away for 90 minutes and escaping into a world where you can dare to dream that a pragmatist from Ayrshire and his plucky charges can out-think and outfight the best in the world – or at least the English.

If you’re still not quite showing symptoms for Euro fever, most GPs prescribe searching out the advert Tennents put out this week, taking in A View From The Euros or Mr Brown’s Boys on BBC iPlayer or simply spending 15 minutes perusing the love-in that is currently Scottish Twitter... then try to tell me it’s not coming hame”.

As every aspect of life is increasingly strained and contorted through the polarizing lense of the internet, Scotland’s campaign gives us a chance to park our cynicism at the door and purely enjoy something as a country. It’s long overdue. So by all means take a stand, take the knee, take the vaccine, take precautions but make sure to take some time out and take a seat, because you definitely don’t want to miss this.