As Scotland qualified for a first major tournament in 22 years, for perhaps the first time in a generation it felt like supporters from across the club spectrum truly did come together.

With Scotland over the last two decades has come an apathy which has been intertwined with club loyalties and embittered frustrations which have done little to heal the wounds of failure.

Serbia v Scotland - European Championship Qualifier

There was unbridled joy in the celebrations as Scotland qualified for Euro 2020 and made a first international tournament in over two decades. (Photo by Nikola Krstic/SNS Group via Getty Images)

But on Thursday night when Ryan Christie scored the opening goal of the match and David Marshall saved that all-important final penalty, their attachment to Celtic couldn’t have been further from my mind.

Similarly, the same can no doubt be said of rival fans when it came to the embattled performance of Ryan Jack, or the penalties of Oliver McBurnie and Kenny McLean, all three of whom have loyalties to Rangers.

It really did feel like an important moment in Scottish footballing history and one which for the first time in a long time, we could revel in together.

Well, at least until Leigh Griffiths had to go on and do his utmost best to spoil it all.

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Somewhere between goading an ex-Rangers player for, according to his hastily scrawled non-apology, being Northern Irish, or revelling in the glorious failure of fellow professionals, things once again turned sour.

In a moment, a player who has gotten as good as he has given in fairness, switched all of our attention back into that clan-like tribal loyalty which almost defines the nation’s game.

It was selfish, sad and – no matter what angle you come at it from – utterly pathetic.

Northern Ireland v Slovakia - UEFA EURO 2020 Play-Off Finals

In the week were he lost his sister Sonia, Kyle Lafferty was emotional at the final whistle as Northern Ireland were defeated 2-1 by Slovakia AET. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Rangers fans were fuming, Celtic fans were adamant we were blowing it out of proportion. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle.

But where it becomes an issue is in highlighting the stodgy, guilty relationship that appears to exist between Rangers fans and some members of the Tartan Army.


If Rangers fans want in, they need to leave their club loyalties at the door and understand or appreciate any which are leveraged against their team.

It feels lop-sided against Rangers fans, something perhaps borne of the changing face of club success or the heightened political situation in the country.

Whilst this might be bigger in the heads of Rangers supporters, it’s an issue which is prevalent and one which deserves serious scrutiny from all sides and not this patronising “well you love the Queen” shtick which is used without any hint of irony.

How can I seriously support a team in good conscience with individuals like Leigh Griffiths who continue to goad, ridicule and disrespect?

Rangers V Celtic

Club loyalties die hard when it comes to the Scotland national team. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

More than that, how can I be part of a support which wants to silence me for speaking out about it?

This has an extra dimension for me personally given my father was Northern Irish and passed away this year, the image of him shaking his head at me for cheering on a player who’d disrespect the nation from which I owe half my birthright sort of haunting me.

I want to be a part of this Scottish journey into the unknown of tournament glory but there are times when I patently do not feel like I belong or that I’m not welcome to join unless I hang my hat at the door and accept the judgement which is about to come for owning it in the first place.

For me, this is a bridge I am not willing to cross and one which will be burned if we aren’t proactive as a nation in unifying us under the one banner and understanding the sensitivities that exist in this bubble.

UEFA European Qualifer - Russia vs. Scotland

Can Scotland’s football fans finally leave club loyalties at the door and unite this summer? You’ve got to hope so. (Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group via Getty Images)

However, something tells me that there are elements within Scottish society and by proxy the Scottish football support which would make this nigh on impossible.

And it’s for that reason that on the night when Scotland finally done it after years of hurt, pain, anxiety and apathy, I’d perhaps feel better giving up on the notion that I’ll ever be truly welcomed into the crowd to celebrate it.

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