WITH the Euro 2020 football tournament (held over from last year) now under way, and Scotland due to play their first game tomorrow, you might want to look out your Glengarry bunnet, Lidl kilt and Saltire cloak … as you prepare to sit down in front of the telly with a couple of cans to watch the game.

You may, of course, be one of the lucky couple of thousand who scored tickets to get into Hampden to see the games against the Czech Republic and Croatia (all in all, around 12,000 international fans – a quarter of the venue’s capacity – will attend).

Or you may choose to visit the fan zone in Glasgow, if you promise not to breathe or jump aboot (the Proclaimers’ song 500 Miles has been banned to discourage this).

But most of us will be watching on the telly. True, those relatively few Tartan Army stalwarts in the stadium will make as much rammy as they can. But the team’s famous 12th man will not be at full strength.

What a footballing phenomenon the Tartan Army have become, turning Scotland fans’ former hooligan reputation completely on its head. Having created an unlikely “family atmosphere” for football, they are welcomed everywhere.

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Mayors speak out in praise of them. Publicans retire on their takings and tips. The Tartan Army win awards for their good behaviour and charitable work.

Of course, they have their detractors – in Scotland, of course; usual suspects – but they are fantastic ambassadors for the country and, while the costumery might seems kitsch, it is worn with as much good humour as pride.

Who cares what the metropolitan trendies and fashionistas say? Put another way: it’s difficult to imagine fighting or smashing up a town in such essentially decorative outfits.

That, alas, is what Scotland fans used to do, at least in London. By the 1970s, the bi-annual games in the British capital had became occasions for battle. I’ve witnessed a lot of football hooliganism in my time but some of the worst was in 1975 when we were beaten (“got beat” in footer syntax) 5-1 at Wembley.

The mood after the game was frightening. For a minute, I thought the briefly under-siege broadcasters’ area was going to fall. I saw one England fan in a terrible bloody mess.

HeraldScotland: Andy RobertsonAndy Robertson

The Tube was on strike because of previous trouble, and most of the pubs around the area were shut (the one we found open was full of Scots fans dancing on tables and helping themselves from the taps). In 1979, 349 arrests were made and 144 fans ejected from the stadium. Flash forward to the 1990s, and it was England fans running riot in Glasgow, and Scottish fans – apart from a few weedy “casuals” – not getting involved or even running away (as seen on the TV news).

What had caused this transformation in fans’ behaviour? Well, that match in 1979 brought about a determination from Scottish politicians to do something about the problem.

A Scotland Travel Club was set up with rules of behaviour and an inducement to belong through the allocation of match tickets. As the 1980s progressed, and with it an increase in organised football hooliganism south of the border (Scottish football hooliganism had always been, er, somewhat ad hoc), there developed – and you can take the word of academics for this – a desire among Scotland fans to differentiate themselves from England fans, and so to become conspicuously well behaved.

Some of this has been taken to extremes with “You’re going home in a f*****g ambulance” replaced by “Doe, a deer”. It took a while for foreign countries to differentiate between the “British” fans, but it was soon obvious that the kilted jocks had come to make friends. There was no way hooligans were going to dress like that and sing such silly songs.

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To be fair to England supporters, the bad rap they still sometimes get now is really a lingering hangover from times past. Thuggish police forces in places like Spain and Italy see England’s “lad” culture of chanting (atavistic echoes of Dark Age, pre-battle rituals) and drinking too much beer as a macho threat to their own machismo, and probably start as much trouble as they stop.

The ballad-singing Scots and Irish (who have as good a reputation as the Tartan Army) don’t seem a threat to anyone. The only lingering criticism the Tartan Army tend to suffer comes when they boo God Save the Queen, the British national anthem sung by England, even if omitting the reference to crushing “rebellious Scots”. Imagine booing that. Extraordinary.

It’s difficult to discern any overt political dimension to the Tartan Army. Support for the SNP was once put as low as two in five, almost as bad as in a bourgeois Scottish rugby crowd (one in 40,000). But that figure comes from 2010, four years before independence became mainstream and when working-class Scots still voted Labour.

As for the Scotland v England rivalry (the two teams meet at Wembley on 18 June), such a thing is hardly unusual between neighbouring countries in the world and, while both sides will desperately want to win, I can detect its having lost just the teeniest bit of its edge, at least from the Scottish end.

In recent years, I’ve been in pubs full of Scots supporting England or English teams in Europe, the same way as English fans used to support Scottish teams, but are now more ambivalent. The whole situation has become inverted.

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Maybe devolution has made us grow up a little, a process that might – who knows? – continue if we ever take the next step. In the meantime, tomorrow, if your next step sees you “coming down the road” (as the Tartan Army song says), perchance from Morrison’s or Sainsbury’s to the hoose with your cans, don’t be tempted to go a further 500 miles, as we would not wish to see you losing the plot and getting too excited.