The worst thing about supporting Scotland is the hope. After a very poor start to our qualifying campaign, the team somehow managed to turn it around and get themselves into a position where two wins in the last two games would win them a play-off spot, and then they managed a jammy last-minute winner in the first of those two matches. (Well, I say 'somehow'. But the answer is actually fairly simple: Scott Brown came out of retirement.)
Of course, I've predicted before that we weren't going to the World Cup, and indeed that we won't be going to any major tournament for the foreseeable future. (Well, unless they change the rules and just let everyone in.) But I did kind of expect the team to manage a win - and then get drawn against Italy, pull off a remarkable 0-0 draw in the first (away) leg, and so know that they only needed one heroic performance, at home, to get through... and then be denied at the last gasp in truly outrageous style. Because Scotland specialise in failing in the most painful way possible, and the was about as bad as I could come up with.
But even that was not to be. About a week ago, Scott Brown got injured and had to pull out. Faced with that, and faced with two very tough games, the manager decided to revert to "tried and tested" players - relying on experienced heads to keep it together to see him through.
Just one problem with that: those players had indeed been tried and tested. Unfortunately, in that testing they had been found wanting. If the definition of madness is trying the same things over and over and expecting different results... well. (Of course, he could have gone with young new, in-form players, and we still wouldn't have qualified. See above.)
So, what now?
Well, we try again next time. After all, you have to, don't you? And we'll need a new manager - Strachan did a mostly decent job, and it's hard to see who would do any better, but he's had two attempts and two failures, so we need to try something different.
Mostly, though, the answer is "nothing". I'm sticking with my prediction: unless they change the rules to massively expand the number of teams that qualify, or unless we amalgamate the leagues and the national teams to compete as Team GB (or UK), Scotland won't make it to either a World Cup or a European Championships this side of independence (and if we never become independent, that means never).
#45: "Pathfinder: The Lost Outpost", by Jim Groves