STEVE Clarke didn’t mince his words when he spoke to reporters about Scotland’s results in friendly internationals over the years in the wake of the lamentable defeat to Northern Ireland at Hampden on Tuesday evening.

“Our record is s***e,” he said succinctly as he attributed the outcome of the encounter with Michael O’Neill’s young side in part to the fact that nothing other than pride had been at stake.

It was not an especially eloquent answer. Still, the expletive summed up the national team’s run in non-competitive fixtures of late pretty much perfectly. The last time they prevailed in one was in a Euro 2020 warm-up match back in 2021 when they edged out Luxembourg 1-0 away. They have won one in 13.  

It is difficult to think of an adjective which could be used to describe our unofficial national anthem Flower of Scotland any better too. Dull, jingoistic, embarrassing, dour, excruciating, hokey and depressing would all probably suffice. But “s***e” absolutely nails it.

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More theories have been put forward about why Andy Robertson and his team mates failed to perform at their best in recent days than exist about the JFK assassination. Lawrence Shankland should have started. The manager got his formation/team selection/tactics wrong. Aaron Hickey and Callum McGregor were missing. The new strip is honking. Everyone has an opinion.

The Herald: Here is another one – Scotland were 1-0 down before kick-off because the national anthem is bloody awful. 

The stunning goal that Liverpool youngster Conor Bradley scored in the first half on Tuesday night silenced the crowd - apart from, that is, the 1,500 or so spectators who were cheering on the visitors - and prompted the away supporters to taunt “this is a library”.

How did the Tartan Army respond to that slight? They spluttered into a half-hearted rendition of Flower of Scotland that’s how. Their lame efforts only succeeded in sucking what little atmosphere there was left inside the stadium out of the night air. They certainly did nothing to get the players wearing dark blue jerseys to up their tempo any. 

It is clear there has to be a stark improvement on the park before the Euro 2024 opener against Germany in Munich on June 14. But could a change off it help going forward as well? Maybe if our boys lined up to a slightly more rousing ditty before hostilities commenced it would be a positive development.

There is nothing wrong with Flower of Scotland, written by the late Roy Williamson of the folk group The Corries in the mid-1960s and first adopted by the SFA as a pre-game anthem before the national team played in 1993, as a song as such.

At a major sporting event, though, it is does just not work. La Marseillaise or Deutschland Uber Alles it is not. It can actually kill the noise and excitement that has been generated around a ground. An anthem should get the blood pumping not send you to sleep.

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The Billy Connolly sketch about God Save The Queen – The Big Yin suggested that Great Britain’s athletes got lapped during the opening ceremony at the Olympic Games because it was so dreary and called for it to be replaced by the theme tune to The Archers - always springs to mind whenever it comes on.   

The Herald:

It is also, with its celebration of Robert the Bruce’s victory over King Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, anti-English. Would we not be better off having, as the former Scotland and British and Irish Lions coach Jim Telfer has suggested, an anthem which “shows us standing for something rather than against something as a country”?

Changing a national anthem is not as unusual as you might think. Many countries, including Afghanistan, Austria, Bulgaria, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Norway, Romania, Russia and Spain, have had several.

Royal families being massacred, new political parties getting elected, independence from autocratic empires being secured and megalomaniacal dictators seizing power have all brought about switches. Is wanting an upbeat song which people can sing along to in time with the music a justifiable reason?

There are those who absolutely adore Flower of Scotland and would rightly argue that it did Clarke’s men no harm at all in their Euro 2024 qualifiers against Cyprus, Spain, Georgia and Norway last year. So could having two anthems be a solution? Denmark and New Zealand do.

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There was no way in the world the Danes were ever going to dispense with an absolute banger like King Christian Stood By The Lofty Mast so they adopted There Is A Lovely Country as well. Sorted! 

This is a long-running debate. There are champions of tunes like A Man’s A Man For A’ That, Caledonia, Highland Cathedral and Scots Wha Hae. But former national team manager Gordon Strachan once put forward an intriguing suggestion – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers.

A controversial proposal? Perhaps. But is there any finer sight in Scottish football than Hibernian fans standing scarves aloft at Easter Road and belting out Sunshine on Leith? Anything would be better than Flower of Scotland. 

The Herald: