Euro 2016: Scots prepare to watch the party from the outside

Scotland fans
Scotland fans have not watched their side in action at a major tournament finals since 1998

It's a condition that afflicts me around this time every two years.

The symptoms? Anxiety, a propensity to dwell in the past and insecurity over the future.

But I'm not the only Scot suffering big tournament angst over who to support at another major tournament finals

It's particularly acute ahead of Euro 2016. Twenty-four nations from Albania to Wales have qualified, more than ever before.

We didnae!

We're the only nation from the British Isles who haven't, and it hurts. Just ask the Scotland manager Gordon Strachan.

"I'll be in Bordeaux to see Wales against Slovakia and I know I'll be getting all kinds of stick from the Welsh fans," he said.

"That's why I've already looked out my disguise. If anyone sees a Japanese navy admiral walking to the stadium, get out of his way and give the man a bit of peace.

"The truth is, the closer the kick-off gets, the more difficult it is for me to watch any of it.

Archie Macpherson
Archie Macpherson has commentated on six World Cups and four European Championships, all of which featured Scotland

"I'll nip in and watch the games and then nip out again because I am not going to enjoy any part of it.

"I can hardly stomach it."

Commentator Archie Macpherson feels the pain too. He's a veteran of six World Cup finals and four European Championships - all of which Scotland qualified for.

''I'm like a kid with his face pressed up against the plate glass window of a restaurant with a feast going on inside," Archie says. "I feel a terrible hunger.''

'If England win it will be painful'

Other seasoned observers are more nonchalant, like writer and broadcaster and host of BBC Scotland's Off the Ball radio show Stuart Cosgrove. He's adopting a "c'est la vie" attitude while flying a flag of convenience. He's happily lending his support to a northern neighbour.

''My big team Scotland aren't there, so I'm going with Iceland," Cosgrove said.

"They are the smallest nation in the tournament. They've done a phenomenal job across all the age groups, men and women, developing a strong international set up and it's something Scotland could learn a lot from.''

Just for clarity, Iceland has a population of three hundred thousand, about the same as the city of Aberdeen. They also qualified at the expense of the Netherlands.

But what about our nearer, southern neighbours, England, Stuart?

Iceland
Stuart Cosgrove will be backing Iceland at Euro 2016, a country he feels Scotland can learn a lot from

''My late great mother Alice Cosgrove was born in England," he says. ''So I don't have any animosity there, but I can't bear the way their media crows and blows about it all. So if they were to win there would be a certain amount of pain involved.''

Archie is of a similar mind when it comes to the country we used to refer to (some still do) as ''the auld enemy''.

''If news reports are true, England replica kits are selling very well north of the border. Let me make a public confession, I was not queuing up for one of them. I have no affinity with any of the home nations,'' he says. ''Especially' when Scotland aren't there.''

Are England strips really flying off the shelves in Scottish stores?

A spokesman for one Glasgow sportswear retailer told me: ''Our top sellers are France and Germany. It's hard to tell if that's because they are the most appealing kits. Sweden is also a big seller with its striking colours. We do stock England tops too, but we only get the occasional person coming in to buy that.''

'Most Scots will be backing Wales or Ireland'

You're more likely to catch former Scotland manager Craig Brown to be sporting an England top than Archie, but only slightly.

The man who lead Scotland to the Euro finals in 1996 and the World Cup Finals in 1998 says: ''It's churlish not to wish England all the best. But I would certainly prefer it if Wales or Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland won the tournament.''

The Euro 2016 draw
Group AGroup BGroup C
FranceEnglandGermany
RomaniaRussiaUkraine
AlbaniaWalesPoland
SwitzerlandSlovakiaNorthern Ireland
Group DGroup EGroup F
SpainBelgiumPortugal
Czech RepublicItalyIceland
TurkeyRepublic of IrelandAustria
CroatiaSwedenHungary

''I think most Scots will be backing Wales or Ireland. I don't think too many will be supporting England and I think that's a shame.''

Brown thinks the winner will come from one of the tournament's 'big four'.

''The bookmakers aren't far wrong making France the favourites, then there's Germany, Spain and England are creeping into it.

''Roy Hodgson is a friend of mine and I wish him all the best and it would be good if they managed to win the tournament.''

Brown also rates Wales as a good outside bet, maybe because another pal Chris Coleman manages them. Or is it because he advised them informally on some of their logistical preparations for a big tournament.

Craig Brown
Craig Brown looks on as his Scotland side take on Switzerland at Euro 96, the nation's last appearance in the tournament

Well, until now they had not qualified for one since 1958.

''I also notice they made a song, I mentioned that to them that a song would go down well in Wales."

There's an exclusive - we've got Craig Brown to thank for the Manic Street Preachers official Wales team song C'mon Wales.

Fair play.

So Brown is supporting the four nations from the British Isles. Very diplomatic.

'Scots like to see good football'

Archie isn't cheering for any of them.

"I'll be following Spain, who'll be going for a record third championship in a row. I just like the way they play good football, especially when they have Barcelona players like Inesta in the team. He's the type of player we're told in this country is too small and not physical enough, but the way he feeds the ball to others is a joy to watch.

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Euro 2016 in 90 seconds

''Scots like to see good football being played, that's why when you see kids playing in parks or on the streets you see so many Spanish shirts. We just like good football."

And so we do. But after seeking the counsel of Messrs Macpherson, Cosgrove and Brown to be honest I'm none the wiser about who I should be supporting.

So I guess I should just go for Austria. After all, I've got them in the office sweep!

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