Coming out of Celtic Park last night I realised, as I thought about how the Group table would look, that I felt none of the emotions that must assail the fans across the city when they ponder what their own might look like at the end of this campaign.
Nobody wants to be the butt of every joke in European football.
And nobody wants to have nothing at the end of a European run but a hard-luck story, far less one that depends on a shaky narrative and possibly even a dishonest foundation.
I wrote earlier about Robbie Neilson and his utter failure to give us an ounce of credit. It is only natural that we ponder, in fact, the question as to whether we’re all engaged in a Robbie Neilson style delusion when we look back at what we’ve seen.
First, take comfort in knowing that you are not alone.
Indeed, those on the other side of this argument – like Leckie, that worm who writes for the paper that shall not be named and whose article this morning was spiteful, abysmally written trash – are the ones in the minority here.
They might think we were simply outplayed and overmatched but we’ve seen examples of that in years gone by and we know what the difference is.
Secondly, the stats don’t lie.
Only a handful of teams in the tournament have created as many outright chances as we have. Poor finishing has done for us here. That’s the truth of it. That’s the fact that some people simply do not want to face up to.
Take last night; they all want to talk about the Ukrainian team’s horror miss; it’s only the post that keeps out Giakoumakis’ late effort or it might have been us who got the three points.
Third, there’s the evidence of our own eyes.
We know that fine margins are what separate a lot of the teams at this level, and as time goes by we’ll get there. We’ve all seen progress has been made, we’ve all watched as we’ve played well in these games.
Ange is right about that. This team just needs greater exposure to this stage, and that will come.
It is painful being out of Europe before Christmas. This is not the scenario any of us envisaged when this Group kicked off. We knew we were going to have a difficult start, but other than the performance at home against the Germans – which came way short of where we want to be – we’ve played well enough for it to be recognisable.
I have seen European campaigns which were truly catastrophic.
This never felt at any point like it was going to be one of them. On the contrary, the frustration comes from knowing that we were much closer to a good competition than the table suggests.
There are moments we will replay in our heads over and over again and ask what might have been; the simple answer is that we’ll never know and it will be next year before we get the chance to put it right.
The important thing now is that we recognise the steps we’ve taken in the right direction and continue to have faith in the process, in the manager and in the style he wants us to play.
There is no evidence that a more pragmatic approach would have borne fruit and in fact, I strongly suspect that it would have led to exactly the deep sense of having been disgraced here that those across town will be grappling with when this evening’s game draws to a close.