/Euro 2017: A Scottish Journey – Emily Russell

Euro 2017: A Scottish Journey – Emily Russell

By Emily Russell – Twitter @RainbowHeed

‘We’re on the road with Anna’s army, we’re going to the Netherlands. And we’re gonna shake them up when we win the Euro cup, cause Scotland are the greatest football team!’

A simple song, reincarnated from the one sang to celebrate Scotland’s last journey to a major football tournament almost twenty years ago. Despite the decline of the men’s national team, their female counterparts were on the up and, for the first time ever, it was the Scotland Women’s turn to take center stage at a major tournament – this time around the Tartan Army would be gracing the Netherlands for Euro 2017 and would be aiming to impress in front of fans from all over the world.

Unfortunately, the song didn’t ring true as we failed to win the cup. We didn’t even progress from the group stages. However, the team and its fans were given the opportunity to make so many memories – which will last a lifetime – and act as a base for the qualifying campaign which awaits the team and incoming manager, Shelley Kerr. Scotland has so much to be proud of, and I was blessed enough to be able to support from the stands in Holland.

Photo: Emily Russell

A Feeling That Will Never Be Matched

Prior to heading abroad, everyone was aware that Scotland would be grouped with three other teams – Spain, Portugal and England. It would only be fate that the first ever major tournament game for the girls would be the big one against England.

In Utrecht, there was an obvious buzz of anticipation and excitement from both England and Scotland fans within the fanzone. I think it was obvious to Scotland that this game was going to be a tall order as we were missing some key players through injury – however, it truly turned out to be a kick up the backside for Scotland in terms of the quality and level of football that was expected on this grand stage.

Being in Stadion Galgenwaard, home of FC Utrecht, was a great experience for the fans despite the result. In all honesty, I didn’t expect the sheer amount of Scotland fans that graced the stadium that day – it may have been due to that game’s opponents, the Auld Enemy, or simply because reaching the tournament was such a momentous occasion for the team.

The feeling of standing and singing ‘Flower of Scotland’ before a game of that magnitude is a feeling that will never be matched. You could feel the passion and excitement within the words as they were belted out by the thousands of Scotland fans within the stadium. The nicest part of the experience was a simple knowledge that women’s football can bring together so many people. When else have you seen a game where both Scottish and English football fans can sit together and enjoy a game of football without anybody causing trouble? Surely the answer is – never.

Although it’s safe to say Scotland were thoroughly beat, it’s also a fact that Scottish fans were arguably some of the best in the entire tournament. You’d think losing 6-0 would deflate the fans, but ask anyone that was there and they would tell you that Scotland fans out sang the English the entire ninety minutes. That passion is something which can only be found from a select few teams and I am so proud to support one of them.

Photo: Emily Russell

Portugal Disappointment

Arguably from my perspective, I always viewed the second match as the most crucial – one that we simply had to win. What a joke that turned out to be in the end. I’d butter it up, make it out to be something it wasn’t but, in reality, that’s unfair to anyone who has been kind enough to read this far into my experience and viewpoint.

This game is the reason we are out of the Euros. Not the 6-0 defeat to England. Not our inability to bag a second goal against Spain. Simply this game.

Don’t get me wrong, I was so proud to be in the stands supporting the girls during this game, however, the hope made this defeat all the more disappointing when it actually happened. Stupidly enough, I had banked on this game as a definite win – I should know by now that anything can happen in football…

We were the better team, but as soon as that first mistake was made and we conceded the opening goal (scored by Carolina Mendes), our confidence was gone. We reverted back to a typical Scotland side who simply were not good enough, and fell short of the absolute minimum requirement at this level. I’m sure most would agree that some errors were made, however, this defeat was on the entire team and not just singular players. It wasn’t until Erin (Cuthbert) came on that our team even looked like it had anything going after we had conceded the first – in my opinion, she should have been on that pitch for the first whistle, although evidently, I don’t make the decisions.

Photo: Emily Russell

Overwhelming Pride

Finally, the end of my trip was upon us and it was literally a give all or end all situation for the team. We played harder than ever before and I couldn’t be prouder of the team. I feel I’ve said that multiple times throughout this piece but it’s simply the truth, the pride of being Scottish was so overwhelming it simply cannot be expressed enough.

Our tactics were spot on – the first time I’ve been able to say that in a while. I have so much praise for so many players on that pitch. Chloe Arthur, best defensive performance in a Scotland shirt this tournament. Erin Cuthbert, absolutely class in the midfield as she normally is. Gemma Fay, despite a few shaky moments, made some absolutely world class saves that had me almost falling into the row before me within the stands!

Those are just a few names mentioned, but every single player on that pitch had something to be proud of that day. We may have just fallen short but we are Scottish. We’ll get up, dust off and be back on the journey as soon as is required.

Gemma Fay really summed up how it feels to be Scottish in her post match interview and I am sure glad I’m along for the journey. Here’s to the future and the memories that are still to be made – let’s just hope they’re as good as we deserve.

Photo: Emily Russell with Scotland captain Gemma Fay

Thank you to Emily for writing this piece on her time cheering on Scotland in the Netherlands.