Visceral.

McCoist was talking shamelessly tribal gibberish. The roof was off. The rain, having been appropriately biblical, was now an irrelevance. As was football. As was gravity, quality and Covid19. Everything old, new, bright, dim, dark or dead lived in the moment – in the roar.

Hampden. Hampden the protagonist. Football under those eyes, yes, but hardly, maybe? Or is that an insult to the selfless rage? A specialness that’s so deafening you don’t know how to rate it or see it through. And never mind thinking, how do you coordinate? And whose chest do you beat?

That sense of international-level football having been usurped… leaving us or leading us into what? Early-on, arm-wrestling; cheating, or simulation and sliding, by the looks. Fakery and thrust and the cusp of violence. Mainly a kind of mindlessness; a slipping away into the inevitable.

Bloody Scotland were bloody. And Scotland. Defending so badly at crucial moments it was almost unbelievable but cruelly, comically Scottish to those of a neutral bent – obvs. Surging manically and (hah! First half) launching those laughable long throws, so deeply did history and expectation (and the rain and the Lack of Quality and Lack of Options) conspire towards a kind of old-school physical intimidation of the Others. Israel in white: rolling about in sequence – so not entirely naively shell-shocked – but shamelessly (the sly wee devils) also looking to yaknow, play.

McGinn scores a fine goal and every now and again looks – god forbid – to pick up his head and thread something. Gilmore available but lost, too often, in the maelstrom; contribution mixed. Liverpool’s left back barely in the game, or certainly force-less, but Dykes running through the whole, soaking melodrama. Poor then heroic then shocking then at the bloody centre. (His feeble pen, his fortunate goal, allowed, post-VAR, by the ref, despite studs raised chest high). All extraordinary, all predictable.

(For that penalty I wonder if perhaps the official was so bored with Israeli histrionics he simply awarded against the visiting centre-back, who had fallen stricken, feeling the striker’s boot close against his face. There was no meaningful contact, and the centre-forward could not adjust himself to dive and head, but for me it was what we used to simply call ‘foot up’… and therefore dangerous – at least potentially. No goal but goal given. Naturally. This was almost entirely a visceral experience and the fact of slow-motion ree-plaaays and/or civilised consideration by a team of skilled officials was never going to re-educate that).

Scotland won an often enthralling, sometimes dispiritingly low-fi game, by out-gamboling, out-hearting, out-charging their opponents: 3-2, with McTominay chest-bumping in the winner. The lad went through the gears from embarrassment to Braveheart before quite knowing how to celebrate. Then he lapped-up the scrumptious, overwhelming barrage from the stands. The tall, resolute but notably one-paced midfielder knew full-well that he owed those supporters for an assist.

The match then, was a fierce throw-back, with the abundant brilliance McCoist and his fellow pundits apparently saw being surely essentially a brilliance of spirit. Scotland played, as they do – as they need to – with palpable spirit. This is a less patronising assessment than you might think. Some of this occasion was tremendous.

Ratings; England- Montenegro.

To complement – or contradict – my earlier blog and prove – or disprove – the fact that I actually watched the game… some thoughts and some numbers.

Hart – simply very fortunate to be in the side. Close to chronic poor form but has almost no meaningful competition. Almost completely untested tonight and only one clear error – when he made a duff clearance in the first half that might have led to a forty yard goal. But didn’t. 6/10.

Walker – likewise lucky to be in the side (and possibly any England side?) following his most recent England performance. Linked reasonably well with Tottenham partner Townsend but showed intelligence-deficit (again) to get booked. Defensively, barely good enough at this level. 6/10.

Cahill – athletic and often composed – or has the appearance of composure. Has most of the necessary attributes but distribution not top drawer. Perhaps the major disappointment is his failure to get more goals from set-pieces. Cruised it, mostly tonight – as he should have done, 7/10.

Jagielka – journeyman, with decent pace but would not feature in a strong England side. Honest enough but can’t pass beyond about ten yards and not likely to either calm things or prompt things. Okay tonight. 6/10.

Baines – especially good modern fullback, who can both defend and attack – and strikes a dead ball beautifully. One of the opposition’s successes tonight was that they cramped his attacking style almost completely. He will be a worthy successor to Cole, whose days in the job are surely numbered. 7/10.

Townsend – decent opening, sporadically effective with comparatively little end product. Then – with the universe quite rightly moving for him, following his sustained attempt to do something positive – he unleashes a stunning right-foot shot for the third goal. Man of the Match for his directness and his energy, no argument but does not look, to me, like a consistent world beater. (So file alongside the other frenetic fliers.) But buy the lad a pint tonight. 8/10.

Lampard – still playing slightly depressingly within himself and… think about it… if he can’t unpick that defence with that much time and space (and against that midfield) then his noble but ultimately slightly underwhelming contribution to the national side is drawing to a close. (Which it surely is). Did little more than water-carried tonight. 6/10.

Gerrard – showed – was often available – but very often disappointed, I thought? Like Lamps, the lights – the Roy-of-the-Rovers fires, in fact – are barely lit these days. Stevie G being merely competent is the rather sad symbol of the England side for the last several years. 7/10.

Wellbeck – another good athlete who can seem really at home in both the MU and the England shirt– deft and bright, even. However…tonight he was sloppy and a little wasteful… and he does unfortunately lack threat, being quite obviously not a goal-scorer. His linking and ‘assisting’ (and – okay then – his defensive work) therefore needs to be absolutely top-drawer to justify a place. Not sure it was tonight. 6/10.

Sturridge – a real striker who was pretty ineffective, tonight, I thought. Again, given the opposition and his form, might have expected more. Can be genuinely elusive and has great instincts but it didn’t quite come off for him – admittedly under close attention. Slightly careless re his awareness of offside, 6/10.

Rooney – had an average game at best, being particularly ropey in the first half. Few if any moments of brilliance, too many miss-controls or poor flicks or dodgy passes. But grabbed a goal. And am pleased to see him sprinting – if only on rare occasions. Confidence clearly not fully there… and he needs to spark up that electric charge. 6/10.

Hodgson – have to give him credit for the Townsend call. But another unconvincing performance, with little in the way of (remember this) verve? It’s not like the lads looked inspired. (See previous blog!) 5/10.

Neville – good bloke and brilliant pundit who seems to be failing almost entirely to shape or motivate the group. But how much scope does he have. Some, surely? 6/10.