It’s now reached that stage where even the senior members of Steve Clarke’s squad have only vague memories of the last time Scotland played in the finals of a major tournament.
Robert Snodgrass is a case in point.
He turned 32 last month, and was just 10 years old when Craig Brown took Colin Hendry & Co to the France 98 World Cup Finals.
The West Ham midfielder recalls being taken with his primary school class-mates in Glasgow’s east end to visit the cinema at the Parkhead Forge shopping complex as a treat to watch the opening game of the tournament between Broon’s Bravehearts and holders, Brazil.
Childhood cheers turned to tears as the samba stars won the match, despite Scotland levelling Brazil’s early opener with a John Collins penalty. An unlucky Tom Boyd own-goal won it for the South Americans.
And there was more disappointment as the Dark Blues crashed out at the group stages after drawing with Norway and losing to Morocco.
Back then, all of 21 years ago, the nation debated where our game was going wrong, and why we could never make it beyond the opening stage of a major tournament.
Now, ten failed campaigns on, we’d give anything just to be at the party, never mind trying to progress beyond the first phase.
Snodgrass, now with a cap for every year Scotland have been absent from the big stage, has been recalled to the international set-up by Steve Clarke, and is gearing up for the forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Russia in Moscow on Thursday, and San Marino at Hampden next Sunday.
As he reflects back to his primary school days, and forward to Scotland’s current situation, he admits: “It’s quite depressing, really. But it’s time to change all of that.
“The next four games are very important, and we want to make sure we get enough points to finish third in the section.
“That will set us up for the play-offs in March. Regardless of who we face, we will be ready and confident.
“This is going to be our time. It needs to be.
“The Scotland supporters are due a real turn. They have missed out on too many Finals and we need to change it in the next seven months, especially with some of the games being played at Hampden Park.
“We’d hate to miss out.”
After topping their Nations League group against Israel and Albania, Scotland made the Euro 2020 play-offs.
But Alex McLeish parted company with the national team at the start of the current campaign, to be replaced by Clarke.
Snodgrass enjoys working with the new manager and his staff.
“I think the SFA should be congratulated for bringing in Steve Clarke. He was the best man available,” said Snodgrass.
“The executives have done their bit, and it’s up to the players to deliver.
“The manager knows his stuff. You only have to look at what he achieved at Kilmarnock.
“He turned the club upside down and had them beating Celtic and Rangers. It was incredible stuff.
“Add all of that to his CV, which shows he worked with Jose Mourinho, Gianfranco Zola and Sir Kenny Dalglish as an assistant, and you have a man who knows his stuff.
“So we are all pulling together, and we want to bring success to our nation. We will be giving it our all.”
Just 14 months ago, at the start of the traditional Euro qualifying group, Scotland were looking to finish the best of the rest behind the overwhelming favourites, Belgium.
Sadly, that’s not going to happen, and Russia will fill that slot.
Snodgrass admitted: “We had high hopes, of course we did.
“But we started with a poor result when we lost away to Kazakhstan, and we faced an uphill battle from there on in.
“Last month’s match at home to Russia was one we had to win. We took the lead, only to lose 2-1.
“The Russians are a very good side and they have some top, top players. They will be formidable opponents in midweek.
“But we had a chance to beat them at Hampden.
“I think we have learned from that 90 minutes that if we take the lead against a team of that calibre, we must not retreat and go into a shell.
“We need to stay positive and try to keep taking the game to them in Moscow.
“Without going gung-ho, we need to look to try to get a second goal, rather than resting on the slender advantage.
“We have some very talented players in the squad, and we need to have a wee bit more belief.
“We have guys playing every week in the English Premier League and scoring goals.
“John McGinn is doing it for Aston Villa and Scott McTominay is doing it for Manchester United.
“There are others in the squad playing regular football in Europe and winning titles, coping with the pressure of playing in front of 60,000 fans every week with a high level of expectation from the supporters.
“So we think we have the talent. It’s about turning it into victories.”
Snodgrass has experienced the rollercoaster of emotions in a Scotland shirt since winning his first cap against Northern Ireland in February, 2011.
In terms of qualifying campaigns, his biggest disappointment came when we were trying to get to the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia.Gordon Strachan was in charge and the Dark Blues went to Slovenia for the final game of their section.
They needed to win to make the play-offs. It ended 2-2, providing yet another agonising occasion for the nation.
Scotland took the lead through Leigh Griffiths and then fell 2-1 behind.
Snodgrass came off the bench to equalise, but a winning goal could not be found.
He recalled: “I was gutted at the end of that game. We all were.
“I’ve been involved in a few sore ones with Scotland, but that was definitely the hardest one to take.
“It took me a while to get over it.
“We took the lead and we were comfortable. I was thinking it was going to be our night.
“Slovenia got back into it, however, and made home advantage count to go in front.
“We never gave up and still believed. When I scored, we thought we could go on and get a winner. We tried, but it wasn’t to be.
“So it’s fair to say we have had our fair share of disappointments. We don’t want any more.
“I am going to stay upbeat and positive about what the future holds.
“I’m not contemplating another campaign of not getting the results we need. This time can be different. We can be at Euro 2020.
“As a nation, let’s all pull together in the next six or seven months and make it happen.”
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