In the immediate aftermath of another crushing disappointment for Scotland, it can be easy to be overly reactionary. Just take Steve Clarke’s ill-advised criticisms of the referee after the defeat to Hungary that ended the nation’s European Championship campaign.

Sure, Facundo Tello might well have awarded Scotland a penalty when Willi Orban sent Stuart Armstrong down in the area, though the fault for the contact between the defender’s knee and Armstrong’s calf being missed lies with the VAR official. But whatever the referee’s sins, being Argentinian wasn’t one of them. It was a strange and disappointing aspect of the Scotland manager’s post-match debrief.

In truth, to lay the blame at the referee’s feet felt like a desperate attempt to deflect away from Scotland’s deficiencies. It was clutching at straws at best, obfuscation of the real issues at worst. Scotland got exactly what they deserved.

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Clarke and his players had spoken at length about the lessons they had learned from their disappointing performance at the last Euros, but this tournament followed a wearyingly, familiar pattern. If anything, this was even worse than what unfolded back in 2021.

There is no great shame nor surprise in a smaller nation such as our own taking a hiding from Germany. That can happen. But the meek resistance was a portent of what was to come.

An improved display against Switzerland still saw Scotland look impotent in attack. Scott McTominay’s deflected goal turned out to be the high point of the whole campaign.

Still, it left Scotland in charge of their own destiny. But with history right there within their reach, they looked petrified to grasp it.

Hungary are a higher ranked side than the Scots, but their own approach to this must-win game for both nations was passive. The difference being that they had seemed to figure out that in order to beat Scotland, you simply had to give them the ball.

The Scots dominated possession and created next to nothing. Not even the unfortunate absence of Kieran Tierney, the man who Clarke’s 3-4-2-1 formation was designed to accommodate, could inspire a change of approach from the manager.

That was hardly a surprise, mind you. But what was rather jarring was Clarke’s stubborn refusal to have a roll of the dice before the game got to a stage where he was forced to go all in.

By waiting until the 76th minute to make any changes, when his team had yet to force a shot on target in this must-win encounter, Clarke reduced his side’s chances of progression to the toss of a coin.

It became an end-to-end slugfest in those 10, tortuous added minutes, but this Scotland side has lacked any sort of punch across their matches in Germany. They bow out as unquestionably the poorest attacking side in the tournament, their 17 shots at goal over their three games the joint fewest (with Northern Ireland, in 2016) registered by any nation since the group stages were introduced in 1980.

Yes, there were injuries that limited Clarke’s options. But he underused the options that were at his disposal. The lack of minutes for Lawrence Shankland, despite the honest endeavour of Che Adams, was puzzling. James Forrest not seeing a second of action, particularly when Scotland needed a creative spark in desperate circumstances against the Hungarians, was baffling.

If we are honest, it was abysmal stuff on the whole, and after all the talk about coming off the pitch in Stuttgart without any regrets, surely Clarke and his players will have plenty as they head home to lick their wounds.

Still, they would also be right to point out that it is this manager and largely this group of players who have got us back to the party. The Tartan Army certainly enjoyed it, and despite what some of their detractors may say, the Scotland fans having a good time after shelling out a fortune to travel to Germany isn’t a major contributory factor in the team underperforming.

Baying for the blood of an honest group of players who gave their lot for their country is unlikely to have aided their performance. However, having taken us this far, now may well be a watershed moment for the country, and for Clarke.

The Scotland manager has done a wonderful job in restoring a semblance of pride in the national team, and in ending the long wait for major tournament qualification. But there is undoubtedly more than a tinge of embarrassment at how it has all played out once we got there.

Can he be the man to take us that extra step, where so many Scottish football greats have failed in the past? To be respected for what we do on the pitch, rather than patronised for what we bring off of it?

It has, theoretically, never been easier to reach a tournament. Or indeed, the knockout stages. Having failed to heed the lessons from the last failed attempt, should Clarke be trusted again with the World Cup campaign?

I’ve been wrong before, but I’d be astonished if he was sacked. Clarke enjoys huge support from within the Scottish FA. Might he walk if he feels he has taken this team as far as he can? Possibly, but he would dearly love to be the man to take his country back to a World Cup, so I don’t see that happening either.

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Perspective is a hard thing to come by in moments such as these. To vilify Clarke would display a wilful ignorance of all he has achieved.

But there is no sugar coating just how poor Scotland have been in Germany. And it is right to question just where we go from here. Clarke has a decision to make, but – and he will feel has earned this right - it will be his own.