I’ve got an earworm. You know, a tune that keeps popping into your head and won’t go away? This one, it’s the one that goes “We’ll be coming, we’ll be coming, we’ll be coming down the road…”
Aye, coming down the road.
Five days to go, and the tension’s already getting to me. By Friday I won’t be able to sleep. By Saturday I’ll be jittery and on edge all day until I can settle myself at that wee corner table in the Captains and get a pint of Best down me. And then, for the next two hours, my heart will cease to beat.
Until then it’s just the waiting. In the office we’ve already tried discussing the team and formation, but there’s not much to discuss. The formation will be the same as has served us so well all year, and the team virtually picks itself. Naysmith’s experience will get him the nod at left back, Hutton’s amazing consistency has made the opposite position his own. The only questions will be over playing McFadden as part of the mid-five or going with McCulloch or perhaps Hartley. Or whether Fletcher is match fit enough, and perhaps giving the in-form Hartley that spot instead. For me it’s Gordon, Naysmith, Weir, McManus, Hutton, Ferguson, Brown, Fletcher, McCulloch, McFadden, Miller. I can’t believe how dependable that sounds.
But the composition of the team is not really the question. We know they’ll give everything they’ve got. We’ll know they’ll defend across the middle and close down all night long. We know Italy have the luxury of being able to wait until the game stretches to look for gaps that they can exploit. What we don’t know is will we be lucky? Because that’s what games like this turn on. A hand ball in the box missed by the referee or undeserved sending offs by an over-officious official. Will a dive over a desperate lunge in the 75th minute be a booking or a pen? The widths of posts, the ricochets off shins, the snaring of studs in the turf at the vital moment. All of these things can/might/will make the difference.
So, yes. I genuinely believe that the gap between us and the world champions is so small that the outcome will be decided by a single piece of luck. The kind of luck that can absolutely break your heart when it goes against you.
It’s been so long since we’ve been here. It’s been so long since the outcome of a match like this mattered.
And the waiting for it to arrive is palpable here. It’s shivering the crisp Novemberish air.
It’s the noise of the tartan army boys. It’s coming down the road…