Those from Arsenal, Derby County, Manchester United, Motherwell and more inspired a nation last month when Scotland achieved penalty shootout victory in Serbia.
Young people across Scotland have been left dreaming of next June after heroics from the likes of Derby keeper David Marshall and Manchester United’s Scott McTominay sealed Euro 2020 qualification.
It was a rare light in what has been an otherwise dark year for football in Scotland, particularly at youth level. Kids have been kept off the pitch for most of this year but Sports Therapist David Jenkins, who runs Sports Therapy Scotland and worked at clubs such as Falkirk, reckons this could spark a health and wellbeing revolution in young footballers.
“I was watching the Serbia game with my son and I was thinking that if there was any year to qualify for a major tournament, it has to be now,” Jenkins told NTOF. “It’s a wonderful experience seeing Scotland at a major tournament.
“Country-wide there was people jumping up and down. Then after, my son said ‘I’m going to go a run.’ This achievement alone had a mass of kids out running, wanting to be that person in the strip in 10 years.
“That alone is a motivation tool. It’s colossal. In the clinic it has been the topic of conversation. Psychologically it’s huge.”
It’s sentiment shared by Stuart McCaffrey, a former player at clubs like Inverness and St Johnstone, who is now the Chief Operating Officer at the Scottish Football Partnership and Trust.
He tells NTOF that he believes the tournament qualification has the chance to lift a nation: “There are over 147,000 registered football players in Scotland and over 630,000 recreational players of all ages.
“It’s such a big thing so there’s a big opportunity to use football to recover from an awful year. There’s a real springboard hopefully with what we have to look forward to.
“It’s really bizarre being in an empty stand as I find it strange to think about being so close to people again. Just the thought of that give us something to look forward to again.
“When you add Euro 2020 into the mix, you have those games at Hampden and one at Wembley, it’s hopefully a way for us all to come together. I have experienced things like Euro 96 but kids haven’t.
“There’s a real opportunity for there to be a legacy for Scottish football off the back of this qualification.”
Our full hour-long chat with David Jenkins and Stuart McCaffrey can be found on the NTOF YouTube channel.