By Matt Williams
FORMER Celtic midfielder and FA Cup winner Gary Caldwell believes Scotland’s famous Tartan Army support will make the biggest impression on next summer’s European Championship finals.
Scotland ended their 22-year wait for a major tournament after a heroic penalty shootout victory over Serbia at Stadion Rajko Mitic last Thursday.
Former Scotland midfielder Caldwell told BBC Radio 5 Live that he believes the nation’s travelling supporters will make their presence felt to memorable effect.
“I think the Tartan Army will be the biggest addition to the Euros because they will be fantastic support and provide lots of colour and singing at the tournament.”
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Caldwell was just 16 years old when Scotland last competed at a major tournament in the 1998 World Cup in France, and he has fond memories of watching his country take part in the opening game.
“We had about 20 people in the house, myself and Steven put Scotland flags outside, my dad helped us hang them outside the windows of the house,” he said.
“That’s what inspired me and my brother to play football.”
Scotland lost that game 2-1 to Brazil, but Caldwell remembers the game fondly.
“It was just an amazing sight to see the team go onto the pitch in kilts, and we actually played quite well and actually lost by two set piece goals to Brazil.
“Scotland losing two goals like that to Brazil seems unheard of… But it was a great occasion.”
Caldwell said last Thursday’s victory over Serbia was even more important for him, as it encouraged his youngest son to support Scotland, rather than England.
“I was sitting in my living room with my youngest boy who was born in England and before the game he was wanting an England shirt, which was a bit disappointing for myself,” he explained.
“But thankfully (David) Marshall produced a magnificent save and we managed to qualify for the first time in a long time.”
He continued, “After the game he told me he wants a Scotland strip for Christmas now so I’m delighted he sat up and watched it with me and the two of us were jumping around the living room just absolutely ecstatic.”
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Despite sealing qualification to next summer’s European showpiece, Scotland’s lack of goals is an area Scotland need to improve.
He added: “There isn’t a lot of goals. John McGinn has come up with goals, Ryan Christie came up with a fantastic goal last Thursday, but behind that there isn’t a great deal and that is the one area which as a team we have to improve.”
Australia-born striker Lyndon Dykes has scored two goals for Scotland since making his international debut in the 1-1 draw against Israel in September.
However, Caldwell believes the QPR striker has brought more to the team than just his ability to find the net.
“I think Lyndon Dykes has been a revelation since he’s come into the team,” said Caldwell.
“He has scored a few goals, but he’s led the line incredibly well, bringing other players into the game.
“He’s been a proper number 9 and it’s something we’ve missed for a long, long time with Scotland.”