It matters; even though you’ve often pretended that it doesn’t, really. I think it was at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina that something shifted and the non-footballing side of Scotland came to realise that it mattered too and became caught up in it. The world cared about this and cared a lot. So much so that even Argentina’s military dictatorship deluded themselves into thinking that to triumph that year would be to win the hearts and minds of the brutalised forever.

Soon though, we would come to know that our fate was to be lived out in a cycle of catastrophe followed by a redemption of sorts and then ultimate, glorious failure. Iran would be followed by Holland; Costa Rica would be followed by Sweden. We would always be on the wrong side of injustice; never favoured by it, like Uruguay in ‘86 and the brutality of Denmark (Yes Denmark!) who wrecked Charlie Nicholas’ knee when his brilliance had threatened them. And we had those bewitching few moments when we were beating West Germany 1-0.

To come to terms with repeated failure we became specialists in “The Blueprint” which we developed into a sophisticated piece of kit. We told ourselves that other nations were copying our blueprints because they came with the imprimatur of Largs. We eagerly swallowed an entire myth about this place to make ourselves feel better. I’m sure there were references to the SFA’s Largs coaching school in Game of Thrones.

Sometimes we got elite foreign coaches to do the blueprints. These would have "wide remits". They would leave “no stone unturned”; they would “think the unthinkable”. But the remits were so wide as to elude anything you could put your finger on. The stones remained undisturbed and the unthinkable thoughts remained unlocked.

Occasionally, Celtic and Rangers with the assistance of foreign players – often bought desperately for much more than they were worth – would raise expectations of a revival. Each reached the final of Europe’s second competition – once. Some might consider this a paltry reward for the hundreds of millions spent on fees and wages. How much native talent did they jettison to make way for the 30k-a-week losers “with great international pedigree”? But hey, we got Seville in 2003 and Manchester in 2008.

Driven half-demented by this wandering in the desert you began to visualise your own schemes as the fever of unrequited anticipation played tricks on your mind.

What if we sent our finest male and female specimens to live and settle in Brazil and Argentina and to become as one with them and bear children? And then to return with them at a pre-agreed moment in their formation? And for these children to be trained at high altitude in the glens in a Spartan atmosphere of military discipline and precision? And for this Generation X of Scottish/Latin hybrids to be unleashed on the world?

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They would be a kind of SuperScot with complexions that spoke of bananas and not banana fritters; possessed of two good feet and the ability to transfer a ball rapidly to their own team mates as though it were natural and not something clunky and unusual. And they would glide across grass without leaving ploughed furrows in their wake. Only the sliding tackle and the square pass across the back would remain of their Scottishness … but only when absolutely necessary, and with artistry.

Perhaps we could borrow from the Le Carre playbook of Cold War espionage techniques? Here, we could get our coaches (armed with their hallowed Largs coaching certificates) to insinuate themselves into the top football academies of Europe and spirit away a young Messi or Iniesta or Nedved under cover of night to start a new life in Scotland where we would raise them as our own and maybe pay for their families to live here too. Kids adapt quickly, don’t they? I mean they probably do that in these countries anyway.

Alternatively, we could just put everything on women’s football. The women are good at football and respected far more than our men. And that’s with hardly any backing. If we diverted all funds and resources to the women then we’d have a better chance of qualifying for all the major tournaments and of maybe even getting to the Hollywood, knock-out stages of a tournament, perchance a wee final. Why be murderpolis at men’s football when we could be admired for our women’s football? It’s all about re-calibrating hope.

Once, as sports editor at The Scotsman Publications, I sent Graham Spiers to Denmark and Holland prior to Euro 96 to see how they did it. My plan was then to add Mr Spiers’ honest fieldwork to my own more rarefied theorems and turn them into my very own "blueprint". The hope would be for future generations to cite our intervention for sparking a Golden Age of Scottish football renaissance.

Finally, following the delusions, you reach for fake virtue. Do we really want to be good at this game? This working-glass game has been destroyed in the slipstream of corporate empire-building. Money – no matter how corrupt and tainted – gets to build factory-teams like Chelsea and Manchester City and Paris St Germain. Here, there is no community and no society; nothing organic or virtuous. You take refuge in the sanctimony that comes from knowing that you’ll never be a part of such a contrivance. And you ignore the fact that your club already is part of it … it’s just that they’re rubbish at capitalism

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But this afternoon, 23 years after we were beaten 3-0 by Morocco in St Etienne, we will face Czech Republic. I’m happy where we are right now. Our manager, Steve Clarke has given me a sense of quiet security that I’ve not had since Willie Ormond in 1974. He seems to have a gnarly wisdom which knows our limitations and strengths and fashions a sturdy system around them. There are no extravagant claims; no spluttered rebukes. And he even threw in a wretched 1-0 win over 10-man Luxembourg last week because he probably sensed we were getting carried away with ourselves.

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