THE relationship between Celtic supporters and the Scotland international team has always been a thorny one.

Even now, though Scotland are under the wise stewardship of Steve Clarke, you still find yourself beset by old suspicions. When the domestic schedule is interrupted by a week of international games it’s like someone insisting on getting food in the middle of a serious bevvy session.

When the Scotland team was announced for Wednesday’s match against the Faroe Islands, instinctively my first reaction was “Where’s Callum McGregor?” Followed quickly by “Bloody typical! The bloody press have been trying to edge our Callum out the picture for a while now and Clarke has succumbed.” And then I remember: I am the bloody press too.

Then you calm down and realise that Clarke has done Celtic – and the player – a favour. McGregor is not long back from injury and the artificial grass in Torshavn following a punishing 90 minutes against Israel would not have been conducive to his rehabilitation. Yet Clarke knew too that McGregor might still be relied upon to help dig Scotland out of a very large hole.

As soon as he appeared late in the second half the Celtic captain brought his customary calm authority to Scotland’s performance. The excellent Faroese began visibly to tire as Scotland’s passing became snappy and perjink.

Clarke is a very astute and intelligent manager in the mould of Willie Ormond, another who achieved success with Scotland after building his reputation in humble surroundings.

Ormond had been the boss of an excellent St Johnstone side who regularly scared the bejesus out of Celtic in the late 1960s and early 70s. He guided Scotland to the 1974 World Cup finals in West Germany and came within a whisker of qualifying for the second stage from a group that included the World champions Brazil and a superb Yugoslavia side.

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Yet it was during this period that an entire generation of Celtic fans finally lost faith in the national side.

The process had been underway for several years, most noticeably during the Lisbon Lions era when the greatest club side ever assembled in Scotland often found their way into the national team blocked. The derisory number of caps gained by genuinely world-class players bore testimony to something more sinister moving high above the office of the manager.

My late father often talked of a Scotland friendly game against the Soviet Union that took place just a week or so before the European Cup final in Lisbon. Having overlooked Celtic’s players for a series of important competitive games, the Scotland management now demanded that six of them be made available just a few days before the most important match ever played by a Scottish club.

My dad, while third-generation Irish, considered himself a true Scot despite knowing that this country limited employment opportunities for him and his contemporaries owing to their faith and ethnicity.

But I still vividly recall a midweek night in the 70s when he returned from a Scotland game at Hampden. He’d been sickened by abuse meted out to David Hay and Steve Murray by the Rangers contingent in a large crowd. “Never again will I go to Hampden to watch Scotland,” he said. He never did.

Thus that sacred rite of passage when a parent hands down their football allegiance to a son or daughter never happened in our household regarding Scotland. A bond was severed. As I got older it was noticeable how few other Celtic fans of my generation retained any great affection for Scotland. Many of them had also witnessed their dads being sickened by the abuse handed out to Celtic players, as well as the astonishing omission of Jimmy Johnstone, Bobby Murdoch and Bobby Lennox from too many Scotland teams.

Across Europe, Johnstone and Murdoch were rated amongst the best players on the planet. Yet Jinky was capped just 23 times for his country. Even more astonishingly, Murdoch was selected on just 12 occasions, yet managed to score six goals, including one against West Germany in a World Cup qualifier in 1970.

I recently saw extensive footage of that game filmed by a German television crew. Murdoch was majestic against a team who were still more or less intact when they won the World Cup four years later. It was thrilling to see a born-and-bred Scottish player actually dominate one of the best teams in the world in a competitive match.

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Italy or West Germany or Spain or Holland would have built their teams around Bobby Murdoch yet, for Scotland, he was considered an after-thought. As was Bobby Lennox, the most consistently lethal goal-scorer in Britain behind the great Jimmy Greaves and a man whom Bobby Charlton described as the best finisher he ever saw. Scotland considered Lennox to be worth a mere 10 caps.

Bertie Auld got 3 (yes, three) caps while Tommy Gemmell, the best attacking full-back in Europe, was considered good enough for Scotland on only 18 occasions.

In 1976 we would see Kenny Dalglish inexplicably dropped to the bench against Wales just as he was about to break the record of consecutive Scottish caps, then held by George Young of Rangers.

Dalglish sat in the dugout for the entire game. Later still came the forced resignation of Jim Farry, the SFA chief executive, for deliberately holding up the registration of Jorge Cadete during a crucial spell of games for Celtic.

This was at a time when Celtic, having been rescued by Fergus McCann, were rebuilding Paradise. And, were promptly told by the SFA, for no valid health and safety reasons, that they couldn’t play their home games there during building work. Hampden, of course, was the only viable alternative and Celtic, according to McCann, were charged an exorbitant rental for its use by Queen's Park.

Those days, when Celtic were the victims of systematic discrimination by Scotland’s football authorities, are long gone. Sadly, though, the scars can be observed in the mild indifference of many Celtic fans to the fortunes of the international team.

Certainly, I’m happy when Scotland win and I’ll always support them (yes, even against the Republic of Ireland). But I’ve been to only 12 Scotland games in my entire life, including a memorable 1-0 win at Hampden against France in 2006. But the passion’s just not there. Not really. I mean, you cheer and shout like everyone else, but the glorious, unhinged madness you experience at a Celtic goal just doesn’t happen with Scotland. Jolly well done, chaps and all that. And it’s a shame.

I think I like this Scotland team, though, and in an aesthetic sense too. They know what they’re doing on a football park and, with a bit more adventure, could give a decent account of themselves if we get to the World Cup finals next year.

It’s probably about time I returned to Hampden to see them again and try – even at this stage – to achieve communion with them.

Bannockburn 1314, ya bass. And, er… Bonnie Scotland too.