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Optimism, nerves and relief: Experiencing Clarke's Hampden bow 

Ronnie Charters runs the rule over Steve Clarke's first match in charge of the national team.

Clarke was a popular choice with the Tartan Army.
Clarke was a popular choice with the Tartan Army. SNS Group

The week leading up to Steve Clarke's debut as Scotland boss was a strange one. It might seem hard to believe considering the years of heartbreak and misery - but it was confidence and optimism that occupied the minds of the Tartan Army.

In his appointment Steve Clarke managed to do the unthinkable and downright impossible in uniting football fans across the country. One might think of giving him the keys to No.10 and allowing him the chance to sort Brexit out, but I think getting Scotland to a major final is probably a tougher assignment.

Our noisy neighbours down south get ripped for suggesting 'it's coming home' after every narrow win over a side they should beat comfortably, but with Clarke at the helm it's fair to say the Scotland support were caught up in that sense of grandeur and positivity.

And even as I took the short walk from the purple media car park on Aitkenhead Road to the national stadium an hour or so before kick-off, again I was witness to a sight, I - as both a journalist and a Scotland fan - haven't witnessed in a while. The Tartan Army, on a Saturday night, the sun shining, heading to watch the footie with a spring in their step.

At this point I must give a shout out to Alan and Jim from Ardrossan who stopped me on my way into the ground after spotting the STV logo on my jacket. After quizzing me as to what I do - the pair who had obviously enjoyed a dram or two went on to describe their journey watching Scotland.

From World Cups, games against England and through the barren last 20-plus years without a major trophy, they hadn't missed a game. Even they admitted they were as excited as they could remember about Scotland chances with Clarke now in charge. Alan and Jim were the epitome of what Steve Clarke has done. He's injected new life into a nation and a support that desperately required it.

Even as the teams walked out and the national anthem was lead by the lone piper, everything it seemed was that bit louder. Flower of Scotland was chanted with some oomph, the Hampden Roar sent that tingle down your spine and as the referee blew his whistle to start the Clarke era, you did get that feeling we had started on a journey that will lead to success.

Believe it or not it was strange to actually see most of Hampden full for a change.

That being said as the clock struck half an hour, you'd be none the wiser as to who the manager was, as Scotland 's start was less than impressive to say the least. You can be assured Steve Clarke was quickly reminded that there are no easy games at this level as Cyprus' number 10 Sotiriou raced through and almost put the visitors in front if not for David Marshall's save. The atmosphere around Hampden quickly stiffened.

The fans were in full voice ahead of the game.
The fans were in full voice ahead of the game. SNS Group

For all the talk of positivity beforehand - Steve Clarke would have got a gentle reminder just how unforgiving the Tartan Army can be - as an element of booing crept in from the terraces. As the second half started as the first ended, one began to see major similarities between the McLeish and Clarke premierships.

I asked Steve Clarke in his pre-match media conference about the lack of goals in the squad and if it was a concern. He replied he was confident they would come. Well as the clock struck the hour mark, I can assure you the 31,277 fans inside the stadium did not share that confidence.

But when you have a Champions League winner in your side, who needs a top striker? All the negativity and worry wiped clean out with one swift left-footed beauty from Scotland skipper Andy Robertson, and we were back on the road to Euro 2020.

If any of the Tartan Army thought they could sit back and relax at that point they were badly mistaken, though many have been following Scotland too long for that. Kousoulos' header in the 87th minute had the Tartan Army sharpening their pitchforks. Amidst all the talk of Steve Clarke and the optimism around the national team in the build up no one had actually contemplated we wouldn't win.

If the blazers of the SFA were sitting uncomfortably at 1-1, Clarke showed just why they employed him, as substitute Oliver Burke rescued the win just before the 90-minute mark.

Listen, I'm not going to sit here and say we are now ready to take on the big boys of the group like Belgium and Russia - there is still plenty of work to be done for the former Killie boss but it's certainly a start.

As the final whistle blew hardly any of the Tartan Army had tried to escape the traffic. They stayed and applauded the man who stood up when called upon by his country. It may not have been pretty but Steve Clarke has that first win under his belt. Now the test of Roberto Martinez's top-ranked Belgians lie in wait.

But we are on our way. Match No.1 of the Steve Clarke era is done and dusted and here's to many more.

Now Steve, about this Brexit...

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