MENTION The Hampden Roar and brace yourself for the sniggering at the back.

Long before Covid restrictions ensured there were weeds and cobwebs surrounding the Mount Florida entrances, the ‘roar’ has been little other than a desperate cry for help. For the last two decades there just hasn’t been much to shout about.

It was difficult to see last night’s UEFA Nations League opening game at Hampden against Israel as anything to get too excited about. It was never going to hold the same weight as the Euro 2020 play-off semi-final next month against the same Israeli team given that it is the precarious lifeline that has the potential to end the exile from major international tournaments.

To that end, at least last night would have reacquainted players with one another as they prepare to try and attempt the great frontier of taking Scotland back to a tournament.

The big hopes of this team – Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson – were still in infancy the last time Scotland were rubbing shoulders with the great and the good of elite football.

Robertson has won a Champions League and an English Premier League title, Tierney has done more than just win admirers since cementing his place in Mikael Arteta’s Arsenal side. Tipped as a future captain for the North London club, the 23-year-old has replicated the influence he exhibited at Celtic at Arsenal now that the injury issues he arrived at the club with are behind him.

The £25m that the Premier League side paid for him looks like quite the steal.

It is only, right, then that Scotland manager Steve Clarke should look to build his team around the duo. The careers that both have had might looks straightforward from the outside but both have had to fight to get to where they are now. If the comparisons between the two feel tedious to them, it is a weary argument too in terms of who should play for their country.  Scotland simply doesn’t have the option of not deploying players who can genuinally hold their own at the highest level.

Robertson bristles, rightly, when his career is described as a fairytale that took him from working part-time in Marks and Spencer for Christmas cash and playing for Queen’s Park to lifting silverware with Liverpool because it belies the tenacity, sacrifice and hard work that went into the journey.

Tierney was the second last player in a youth team at Celtic to be offered a professional contract. By the time Ronny Deila arrived at the Parkhead side he was the second choice left-back for the club’s under-19 team.

That it hasn’t been given to them on a plate might explain some of the characteristics that mark their attitude and temperament and right now Scotland need every bit of help they can get.

Any advances that Scotland make tend always to feel fragile with the weight of the last 20 years whispering at its back. There needs to be a point of keeping trust with the players that are there and their ability to mould a team ethos capable of making the national team greater than the sum of their parts.

Steve Clarke was arguably the most popular appointment in recent memory for the role. A fairly universal call after the way in which he organised unfashionable Kilmarnock and took them to a third place finish, he needs to be given the scope and time to try and build something.

There should be grounds for optimism given the players that are at his disposal but the Scotland job was never going to be a quick fix. Billy Gilmour is recuperating with a knee injury at Chelsea but at some point over the coming season he will be involved with the national team after the way in which he has started to come to the fore with Frank Lampard’s side.

Having players who feature week in, week out in the best leagues in Europe has always been the common denominator in terms of the national team having success by making it through the qualification stages to tournaments.

Getting to next summer’s delayed competition still seems like a fairly steep ask given the complexities of the play-off games which await. But if it proves to be another close call that ends in disappointment, then it isn’t the time to be calling for heads and demanding change but rather to properly assess if progress is being made.


Scotland is a small country and active levels of participation in sport fall steeply the minute the transition is made from primary to secondary. Football remains the biggest draw, but even here the numbers dwindle starkly once the teenage years hit. 

To that end, it seems entirely nonsensical that schools would close the door on anyone wanting to play. Team trials still select the best players and nowadays that often means kids who are already signed up on pro-youth terms elsewhere. 

You cannot lament the impact of Playstations and Xboxes on the health of the next generation without being serious about doing something about it. Street football has long gone, the hire of pitches can be prohibitively expensive and daily life runs in tandem now with screens and devices.

Mental and physical health rates are repeatedly exposed, particularly among the under-25 generation, as cause for concern yet we continue to deploy a system of selective participation in sport. It is myopic for reasons too many to list.

Scotland’s dropout rate from football academies and performance schools is vast. 

If there was ever a way to utilise these young players for whom a career path they intended did not materialise, surely it is in coaching through the school system, particularly at secondary school level. 

By all means stream the best players in the best teams. Push them, make demands of them and see where it takes them. 

But don’t turn your back on kids if they turn up with the desire to be involved.