Even in a group full of players timing their run sweetly, Declan Gallagher stands out.
A year after being given his Scotland debut at the age of 28, the Motherwell defender has yet to finish on the losing side.
And, thanks in no small part to the terrific marking job he did on Aleksandar Mitrovic, he is able to look forward to an experience unheard of for a Scottish player of his generation – representing his country at a major Finals.
“That’s me six unbeaten now in all my appearances, and we are on a nine-game unbeaten run. It’s amazing for me and the country,” said Gallagher.
“Already this is life-changing for me.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever see a major tournament with my country.
“But here we are, we have just qualified and I don’t think it has even sunk in yet.
“It’s a career high for me. It’s not going to get much better than that.
“Thursday was a good night/morning!
“I’ve had celebrations before, and the biggest for me previously was probably earning promotion to the Premiership with Livingston, and also winning the league with Dundee in the Championship.
“This one, though, has blown all that out of the water.
“It was a great experience, and one that will live on in the memory of all the boys that were here. All the boys and the staff together – it was just a great night.
“Twenty-two years since we last made it. It’s unbelievable.”
On a night of unrelenting pressure in Belgrade, the sight of Gallagher and his Fir Park club-mate, Stephen O’Donnell, performing with calm assurance and commitment was a highlight.
“When you look at the back-five against Serbia, it was Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United – and two Motherwell players!” said Gallagher, who was with O’Donnell in Celtic’s youth system.
“But, to be fair, it meant as much to each of those guys as it did to me and Stephen.
“Regardless of who we play for at club level, this was huge and I think you could tell that from the celebrations at the end of the game.
“You saw the emotion from Ryan Christie, Scott McTominay and so on. Everybody just wanted it so much.
“To get there, and get over the finish line to a major tournament is massive, such a great achievement for Scotland.
“We are back to being a proud nation again.
“A lot of people were looking at the quality of Serbia, and who their players play for.
“But look at our team – three of the defence play for some of the biggest clubs in England.
“John McGinn also plays for Aston Villa, a top Premier League club, and then you have Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie and Ryan Jack who play for Celtic and Rangers, the top teams in Scotland.
“So, realistically, our team is as strong if not stronger than the Serbian team.
“Sometime you get a wee bit of negativity that comes along with Scotland, simply because we haven’t reached a major Finals in so long.
“People fall into the trap of thinking everyone is better than us.
“Listen, there is no doubt they were the favourites. It was their home pitch, their country and we hadn’t been to a tournament for 22 years. We were the underdogs.
“We got there though and it all came from keeping a cool head, doing the right things out on the pitch and staying together as a team, keeping that tight bond we have had in all the recent camps.’
“I think we have proved now that we can compete against some of the best teams in the world and I am thrilled I could contribute to that with such a good performance.”
As the defender explained, 2021 now promises to be quite a year for him.
“I have a wee girl already and a wee boy due in February which is something else to look forward to,” said Gallagher.
“With the games so close to home, I’ll hopefully be able to spend a lot of time with my newborn in the build-up.
“And, of course, it will be great to have two of our games in the Finals in Scotland – hopefully with the Tartan Army there.”
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