As all the romantics know, the opposite of love is not hate. It’s just a bland indifference.

On another despondent night for Scotland, this time around in Russia, as David Marshall stooped to pick the ball out of the net again, it was difficult to escape the feeling that if one could take a vote on such matters that sizeable numbers might stick their hand up for a divorce from international football.

As the final whistle put Scotland out of their misery, many fans would have shrugged an acceptance of the result and wondered when club football would dominate the headlines again.

Death by a thousand cuts and all that.

Such is the deep-seated malaise that drips all the way through the national squad, there is nothing left to hang on to for the slightest glimmer of hope. The love has long gone.

What are the good times for an entire generation under 25 to reference in order to get them through the bad night?

Remember that cracking night when we got beat 2-0 by Georgia and they played a 17-year-old kid?

Remember that night in Prague when we showed the kind of innovative thinking that would get football stopped when we played a weird 4-6-0?

The separation is already evident.

There will be no-one having to beat their way through the crowds tomorrow to get to Hampden. Sulky silence will envelop a stadium that is hardly conducive to a decent atmosphere at the best of times and it’s fair to say that San Marino will not be quaking in their boots at the thought of facing Scotland.

If the love has long since fractured, the passion left the building long ago.

There were all sorts of discussions last week in the build-up to the game about the suitability of Lawrence Shankland, the Dundee United striker, being called up for international football. On Thursday night’s evidence we can only say that the Championship player had no reason to feel he was stepping up a level by going into the Scotland team.

Yet, Steve Clarke was as popular an appointment as Scotland manager as anyone who has taken the job in recent times. Widely regarded as the man to bring back the spark and put a bit of life in the national team having worked minor miracles with Kilmarnock, Clarke was seen as a move in the right direction.

The problem is that Scotland require the kind of mysterious magic that turned water into wine at Cana. And given that Clarke is merely human – and therefore fallible – progress has been, well, of the size that might require the use of a microscope to find it.

That Kazakhstan and Cyprus sit above Scotland in the table is an ignominious reflection on just where Scotland are.

It is fair to suggest the magnitude of the job for a country who have been sliding further and further down the rankings towards obscurity with each passing campaign, was always seen as fairly big.

That there has been no real sense of anything changing will start to cause ripples of discontent again. However, it is pointless rushing to change it yet again. The constant convoy of managers in and out

does nothing to offer consistency or a settled squad with players getting to know one another. Like it or lump it, these are the resources for any manager to come in and work with.

And one has to wonder just what effect the constant negativity has on the playing squad. When players who perform well for their club look worse than average in an international set-up there has to be a question about the psychology within the team.

The weight of expectation and the incessant chat with every tournament that passes Scotland by has to bring pressure. The problem is, it only intensifies the longer it goes on.

Should it transpire that there is another tournament watched from a sofa, this one will rub a particular kind of salt into the wound. Games at Hampden without Scotland being there would feel particularly sore but there is no easy fix.

Automatic qualification was never a realistic prospect and although there is a sliver of light with the possibility of sneaking in the back door through the Euro 2020 play-offs courtesy of the Nations League campaign, few would bet on Scotland mustering the required mettle to get through them.

Those games will be played in March. Six months then to get to work on fermenting the water.

And another thing...

Pity the worker who unplugged VAR at a Saudi League match in order to charge his phone.

Still, it might plant a seed in the minds of the Celtic support who will fancy enforcing a media blackout on Odsonne Edouard.

The Celtic striker netted another double for the French Under-21 side to take his tally to six goals in just three matches for Les Blues this week, earning him significant praise in his homeland.

It seems increasingly likely that the striker will be coveted this summer with the £9m that Celtic paid for his services looking like money in the bank.

The French senior team is not without some impressive options when it comes to their forward line with Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud, Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe looking fairly settled in there.

However, Edouard might just fancy his chances of sneaking into the squad for next summer’s European Championships.

It is a fairly big ask but it also gives him added impetus to impress when it comes to Celtic’s next Europa League double header against Lazio. Doing the business on a European stage will sustain the interest that has been shown in him over the last few weeks in France.