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For Kintyre fans of the Scottish national football team the path back to a major tournament during the past 23 years has been as long and winding as the roads in and out of the peninsula.
Every other month throughout the 2000s and 2010s fans made the 280-mile round trip to Hampden Park in Glasgow to watch the national team, whether in high-pressure qualifying games or for midweek friendly matches under the floodlights.
This week, the Courier hears from some of those fans about the ups and downs of following Scotland during those years – and how it feels to see their team preparing to play at this summer’s delayed UEFA Euro 2020.
David Paterson, former Campbeltown Boys AFC player and, for almost 20 years, organiser of coach trips to matches, can see the real positives this summer for younger generations, having known the excitement of watching Scotland with his Campbeltown pals in France at their last major tournament, the 1998 World Cup.
He said: ‘It’s really exciting for the youngsters who have waited so long to see Scotland at a major tournament. Going to France in ’98 we never thought it would be another 23 years before the next one came around.
‘I managed to see Scotland play Brazil in the opening match and, with a few of the other boys, we saw Scotland play Morocco in the final group game – it was a sore one, a 3-0 defeat.’
Back on home soil, the Scotland matchday atmosphere is well suited to families and some favourite pre-match spots have popped up in Glasgow’s southside, such as the American Pool Hall on the city’s Kilmarnock Road.
David remembers it fondly from the Scotland team’s biggest ‘nearly’ moment, narrowly failing to qualify for Euro 2008.
He said: ‘The Euro 2008 qualifiers were fantastic. All the home games were on a Saturday and Scotland won five out of six home games, all on a Saturday, so the bus was full and the atmosphere was brilliant – although with a full bus, you’re constantly worried about counting people back on.
‘There were more than 200 Campbeltonians at that game, and the pool hall, where we went before games, was just full of people from Campbeltown; from those who travelled from the town to those who now stay up the road. It was a brilliant atmosphere – sadly ruined by the result.
‘In truth, though, buses were often full for midweek friendlies, too, with some of the youngsters then, now going to games with their mates as adults – it’s great to see.’
For the grown-ups, there are some now staple watering holes in Glasgow’s southside, just a mile or two from Hampden, such as The Corona, Church on the Hill, and iconic southside nightclub The Shed.
Peninver’s Peter McCallum, who was in France with David back in 1998, remembers a funny moment – at least for the travelling Campbeltonians – in the basement of The Corona.
He said: ‘A few of us were sitting downstairs in The Corona bar before a game, and a fan from elsewhere was playing a snare drum, but didn’t look like he really knew what he was doing.
‘Campbell Anderson, an actual drummer in pipe bands in Campbeltown, asked for a wee shot and started playing perfectly alongside a piper in the pub.
‘The fellow took the drum back from Campbell – but he didn’t fancy following up that performance and quickly left it to one side.’
For the younger generations, Scotland’s big-stage return, on Monday against the Czech Republic, is a totally new experience.
Stuart Crossan, who plays for Campbeltown Pupils AFC and has followed Scotland home and away for 20 years, only really identified with Scotland growing up, unusual for a football-mad youngster in the west of Scotland.
He said: ‘Growing up not having a club team it gave Scotland games a real sense of occasion.
‘My dad took me up to games and we always loved the coach journeys, the walk to the ground, everything about it.
‘People from the town have travelled to see Scotland play the best teams, and sometimes beat them.
‘There have been times when Scotland haven’t competed, but they’re back to the big stage now and for lots of people I know it’s a lifetime first.
‘These are new memories for so many people and it’s brilliant.
‘As a coach, it’s exciting to see there are lots of high-profile players for young players to look up to now. All these Scotland players started out at boys’ clubs in the past – the captain, Andy Robertson, even played at The Meadows at the Campbeltown Soccer Festival.
‘So there’s hope for any young player, no matter where they start out.’