FAILING to drum up interest in the national team in a country obsessed with football feels like a dereliction of duty. For many, of course, it will always be a case of club before country. There are some supporters who, given the choice, would rather see their team score a goal than Scotland win the World Cup. And if you’re a St Mirren fan both those scenarios seem equally as plausible right now.

The Scottish FA will never be able to alter that mentality. What should be of greater concern to our game’s governing body, however, is that they also seem to be losing the hearts and minds of the hardcore Tartan Army support.

These are the kind of people who would travel anywhere in the world to watch the team and who, traditionally, have always turned out in decent numbers at home to back the players for increasingly little in return. They did so due to an unbending sense of national pride and loyalty, in hope rather than expectation, but always optimistic that it would come good eventually.

If those supporters are now giving up the ghost too then the national team is in a bad place indeed. In the many steps involved in the emotions of a football fan, Scotland supporters seem to have quickly shifted from frustration to anger to apathy. And if people have stopped caring about how the national team fares then it will be a real struggle to win them back.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that a Scotland fixture was an event to build your day around. Supporters would travel the length and breadth of the country for games at Hampden, filling Glasgow pubs for hours before and after.

Away games would involve meeting up with pals to watch on television in someone’s house or in a bar. It was an event where attendance was virtually compulsory.

On Thursday night, though, it felt like a communal shrug of the shoulders. People weren’t bothering to tune in. Some flicked the channels to watch another match. Most alarming, there appeared to be quite a few football fans who didn’t even know the game was on.

And when Scotland’s stoic first-half resistance in Moscow disintegrated in a predictable second-half collapse the reaction was similar. A few moans on social media about selection and performance but mostly an air of resignation and indifference. This is where Scotland are right now.

The Nations League play-offs in the spring could offer an instant uplift but at this moment in time the gloom feels deeply ingrained. We got the manager the majority of people wanted and yet even that hasn’t worked out this far. Steve Clarke’s case, of course, hasn’t been helped by the mounting number of call-offs which tends to serve as a sign that all is not well within the camp. When a team are performing well and the mood is positive, minor knocks and injuries tend to heal up quicker.

The quickest way to lift the mood is of course by winning. And barring what would be an unprecedented disaster, San Marino should be comfortably dispatched this evening. Chances are, however, there won’t be too many to see it.

Ticket prices are set at the start of a campaign but even PT Barnum would feel slightly sheepish at trying to drum up late interest for a match featuring the worst team in the world – that’s San Marino, for clarity – and asking supporters to pay £27 for the privilege on a Sunday evening. As one Twitter wag put it: “Is that to play or watch?”

At this point it becomes a vicious circle. Hampden, a third-full at best, will echo to the sound of an international team bereft of confidence trying to break down a team without a competitive win in their history. A disenfranchised crowd won’t provide much of an atmosphere to lift the players. And an under pressure team may similarly find it difficult to rouse the crowd.

Given this is a malaise that has been growing for more than 20 years then it is difficult to see just how Scotland snaps out of it. Managers and players change regularly and yet the struggles remain.

There have been numerous revamps and revolutions in grassroots football and changes to the pathway to little discernible effect. Perhaps the Performance School graduates will deliver an upturn in fortunes but that won’t happen any time soon. Hope is fading fast and the SFA need to do something drastic to bring it back or risk losing fans forever.

THE issue of ticket prices remains a hot topic in the club game, too. Celtic supporters have taken to protesting at recent away matches at the growing cost of going to a game. That has sparked a response from other fans quick to point out that Celtic Park isn’t exactly a cheap day out either.

Football clubs are like families in that you only get to criticise your own. But in training their barbs at each other, supporters are wasting the opportunity to make a valid point. If there is any real prospect in forcing SPFL clubs to reduce their prices across the board, then the only way of making that happen is by fans working together, not against each other.