As I’ve written many times, Scotland is my adopted home.
On Sunday, you would have found me cheering on Scotland’s rugby side against South Africa and I’ll admit freely to not only following, but supporting and delighting in Steve Clarke’s exploits.
But when England come to town, that loyalty reverts to my birthplace.
It pains me to say this, but Tuesday presents Scotland with the best chance they have had in a generation to not only beat, but hurt, their biggest foes.
England are a team packed with talent – their forward players represent arguably the best array of attacking options in world football. The problem? Taking the shackles off and letting their best players showcase their skills.
Ironically, it’s that level of trust in big players for big moments that has seen Scotland excel under the guidance of Clarke.
As England struggle to shoehorn an in-form James Maddison into an unnatural left wing/wide midfield position – all to allow Saudi-based Jordan Henderson his central berth – Scotland find a way to make John McGinn, Callum McGregor and Billy Gilmour shine. Not to mention turning Scott McTominay into a goal-scoring machine.
The continued blind faith in Harry Maguire, a man who may never have let England down but continues to be picked on “form”, will have Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams licking their lips – and if the former Manchester United captain doesn’t start, a new pairing in the centre of defence in front of a rambunctious Hampden crowd could prove the very definition of sink or swim.
Then there’s the England manager.
Much like Steve Clarke with Scotland, Gareth Southgate has undoubtedly brought the feel-good factor back to the England national side.
A World Cup semi-final and a European Championship final are a marker for the on-pitch improvements.
However, many England fans are growing frustrated at what they see as a lack of top-level ability to change games with tactical tweaks – or to simply play with a freedom that the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Eberechi Eze and Maddison would arguably afford.
There is the usual hyperbole from some quarters that Southgate should be considering his future if things go wrong at Hampden.
That feels a step too far, he is in considerable credit with both the FA and large sections of the England faithful. Having said that, last week’s drab draw with Ukraine felt like Southgate’s reign distilled into 90 minutes – another display like that will leave many others more than frustrated.
It’s also worth remembering that Scotland fans were none-too-pleased with their own sides’ form after defeat to Ukraine in a World Cup play-off was followed up with an insipid win against Armenia, before a debacle in Dublin brought a 3-0 Nations League defeat.
How times have changed.
England would do well to note the sensational performance and result Scotland secured against Spain earlier this campaign.
Another effort like that and Hampden will undoubtedly roar once again on Tuesday night – my biggest worry as an England fan is if I’ll be able to show my face in the office come Wednesday morning.