“Ohhh, I’m gone.” Words that, for Scotland fans, can somehow be heard even when reading them off the page.

They were forced out by Ryan Christie of course as a signal that he was about to be overcome with emotion at the magnitude of what he and his Scotland teammates had just achieved in Serbia, ending over two decades of hurt for the Tartan Army by qualifying for the European Championships.

In an era when so many fans feel disenfranchised from the direction the game is heading at the top level, and during a pandemic when the distance between team and supporter has never been greater, it was a moment beamed into our homes from afar that made us all somehow feel closer together.

Christie’s interview, conducted by the equally weepy Sky Sports presenter Luke Shanley, wasn’t just a fantastic, life-affirming piece of television. It was a moment that made a mockery of widespread assertions that nobody cares about the national team anymore. Not the players, not the media, and most importantly of all, not the fans.

Really? Tell that Christie and the legions tuned in to see a moment that has now entered Scottish football folklore.

“It was ridiculous,” he recalled. “I just remember trying to put some sort of words together. It was just an incredible night.

“Anybody that speaks to me about that night, they obviously say congratulations on the game, but the main thing they’ve taken from it is the interview afterwards and saying they got a bit choked up as well.

“I would have never thought in a million years that I would be part of the squad that did it. It's a dream come true.”

That fervour for the national side may have been placed into something of a hibernation since that storied night back in November, but it reached fever pitch once more this week as manager Clarke unveiled his 26-man squad for the championships.

The last man to put such a list together for the big stage, Craig Brown, agrees that the national team is just as significant now as it has ever been, even after those decades in the international wilderness.

“Scotland as a whole got a great boost in a difficult time from Stevie qualifying the team,” said Brown.

“I don’t honestly remember the same euphoria when we qualified. I was assistant at two and manager at two, but it was so commonplace then. It wasn’t so great to qualify, it was a humiliation not to qualify. You took it for granted that you were going to qualify, and if you didn’t, well…you felt horrendous.

“But it’s a big boost for the whole country. It has a huge impact on the nation. If the pandemic wasn’t here, the ticket scramble would have been tremendous.

“Immediately you will see the sale of replica strips rocket in the summer, the interest in football will be much higher, the television channels will be running all sorts of programmes on it, the papers will be full of the Euros.”

It is just a pity that having waited so long to join the party at a major tournament, only limited numbers of the Tartan Army will be able to attend. Unless of course, Scotland reach the latter stages.

“A tournament without Scotland is not the same, no doubt, and that’s not just from a Scottish perspective,” said Brown. “I know that, because people always say to me ‘Aw, it’s a pity that Scotland didn’t qualify, because we love having you.’

“I can’t recall Scotland fans anywhere in any nation being out of order. The Tartan Army is a terrific supporting group. They like a drink, right enough, but they don’t cause damage and they’re not violent.

“Now that Stevie has got us in the tournament, I think it’s brilliant. I can’t wait until it starts and gets going.”

For the fans, and for the players, that wait is almost over. And while the phrase ‘Nothing Matters More’ once rang hollow as a vacuous marketing slogan dreamed up by the SFA on the back of yet another failed qualifying campaign, the scenes up and down the country in the coming weeks will show those words to be not so far wide of the mark after all.

We’re no longer on the outside looking in, and it is a moment that Christie - along with the rest of the country - will savour, having waited so long to see it.

“I’ve got memories of watching all these World Cups and Euros going on through the summer,” he said. “The streets were always packed and the pubs were always full of fans.

“The thought of that happening with Scotland being at a major tournament, it gives me goosebumps thinking about it.

“Going into the Euros now, everyone is just desperate to do well, and to have that football fever over the summer again.

“We’re more than ready for this, we’re made for this.”

*Ryan Christie was speaking as part of the Tennent’s Made For This campaign. Tennent’s Lager is an official partner of the Scotland National Team. You can watch the interview here: https://www.tennents.co.uk/made-for-this/