Supporting Scotland over the last decade has required fans to develop near masochistic tendencies to deal with the constant heartbreak and false promises.
For far too long have the men in blue flattered to deceive, or simply failed to flatter at all. Whilst things haven’t been as bad as when Australian Matt Williams led Scotland to just an 18% win record, results over the last decade have hardly been something to celebrate north of the border.
However, for the first time since Ian McGeechan’s tenure between 1988-93, there is finally reason for Scotland fans to feel positive. Under Vern Cotter, the side are currently recording their best win percentage since Geech stepped down from the role, whilst he also led them to within a dodgy Craig Joubert decision of a World Cup semi-final.
Things are still far from perfect however given Scotland are still to record a Six Nations victory in their last nine attempts. At this level, a record like this simply isn’t good enough (even Italy have been more successful). Whilst that last stat hardly makes for positive reading, there is still plenty to be positive about for Scottish fans.
Last weekend against Wales, Scotland were once again undone by a somewhat controversial refereeing decision when Lloyd Williams try was allowed to stand. Even looking beyond the appalling luck Scotland seem to so chronically suffer with, there are still plenty of reasons for fans to remain positive.
For the first time in seemingly forever, Scotland are actually more than worthwhile watching. They have a backline that wouldn’t look too out of place in the Southern Hemisphere, and they have shown they aren’t afraid to throw it about a bit. Whilst things may not quite be clicking right now, in the likes of Finn Russell, Mark Bennett and Stuart Hogg, Scotland have some of the most gifted attacking talents in the Northern Hemisphere.
They also have a pack that went toe-to-toe with one of the most dominant Aussie packs in memory and made a decent game of it (unlike England). The most exciting element of this current Scotland team however is the youth that runs through its very core. The front row and scrum half aside, the team is made up primarily of players who are still yet to reach their prime.
The fact that most of the current team are likely to still be together at the next World Cup, and quite probably the one after that as well is reason enough for some positivity at Murrayfield. There are also a host of younger stars looking to burst into the starting XV including the likes of Stuart McInally, Zander Fagerson and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne. This means that even when the likes of Alasdair Dickinson, WP Nel and Greig Laidlaw do decide to hang up their boots, there are ready made replacements ready to step into their shoes.
Add into this the fact that Glasgow cruised to their first Pro12 title last year with a team featuring many of Scotland’s key players, and Edinburgh appear to be kicking on this season with a number of young Scotland stars, and the future looks very bright indeed. This is especially true with Vern Cotter at the helm who has already worked wonders with an admittedly talented squad.
All of this is quite amazing when you consider that Scotland are operating with the smallest player base of all the tier one nations. However, should Cotter be able to turn his side’s current promise into actual results, there is no doubt that those player numbers could start to swell as more youngsters are attracted to the sport, especially given the painful, slow demise of professional football in Scotland.
The biggest issue for Scotland right now unfortunately is the weight of expectation. After their World Cup run, many expected them to make a serious impact on this year’s Six Nations. Unfortunately a combination of key players lacking form, and some poor decisions has seen their hopes, for this year at least, somewhat extinguished.
It is therefore vital that Scottish fans temper their expectations, and allow Vern Cotter and his squad the time necessary for them to reach their full potential. Given what this team have already shown they are capable of, just imagine what they might be able to do at the World Cup in 2019 if these group of players is allowed to continue playing together on a regular basis.