Paul DIXON stood in the home dugout at Hampden, tracksuit off and ready for action waiting for the call that never came.
But today, more than two years down the line, he was able to put the bitter disappointment of being robbed of his first international appearance and look forward to pulling on that dark blue jersey for the second time in only four days.
As he looked ahead to tonight’s World Cup clash with Macedonia – a fixture which has turned into a “must win” match for Craig Levein’s players – Huddersfield Town star Dixon insisted his long wait was worth it after being named man-of-the-match in that disappointing no-scoring draw with Serbia.
He said: “In Craig Levein’s very first game as Scotland manager against the Czech Republic I was about to come on. Peter Houston had called me over and I was standing there stripped and ready to go on. I was only going to get a couple of minutes at the end of the game, a straight swap with Lee Wallace.
“But I think the gaffer got caught up in the moment of making sure we got over the line with a win as we were leading 1-0 at the time. I think he just forgot about me which is perfectly understandable – I’d probably have exactly the same thing myself. The more important thing was that Scotland won which we did.
“It was disappointing at the time but that doesn’t matter now I have made my debut. It’s all in the past. Some people may say it has been a long wait to finally get my first cap, but maybe it was someone telling me it wasn’t quite my time.”
Dixon’s starring role against Serbia completed what the former Dundee United defender admitted had been a “whirlwind” few months for him following his move to the English Championship, injuries to Charlie Mulgrew and Danny Fox in the build-up to Scotland’s opening World Cup qualifier resulting in a late call-up.
He said: “It’s a big step up to international level. I have made the step up from the SPL to the Championship and now I have made the step up to international football. It’s all happened in the space of three or four months. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind but I have enjoyed it.”
Dixon hasn’t had the chance to watch his performance at Hampden again, but he knew within himself he’d enjoyed a good game against Serbia and now he has his fingers crossed Levein will give him the nod again tonight,
He said: “I’ll watch the match when I get home but I have played the game long enough to know when I am having a good game and a bad game and on a personal level I don’t think it could have gone any better. A debut against England might have topped it, but it was very good, I enjoyed my day.
“I’d heard about the Serbian tactics to put pressure on me and that made me even more determined to play well and keep them quiet. They clearly felt I was the weakest link but with my performance I showed them they were wrong.
“Obviously I’d love to do it all again tonight but first and foremost I have to be picked by the manager. Whatever decision he makes I will fully respect, but if I get the chance I will just have to play exactly how I did on Saturday, do well for my country, try and get us the three points. I do realise it was down to injuries I got this chance but if I do well then, fingers crossed, that might make Craig think ‘I can’t drop him’.”
A draw at home on the opening game of a new campaign attracted all the predictable headlines but, insisted, there was more to Scotland’s performance than the result would suggest.
He said: “At the end of the day we didn’t get beaten. First and foremost, that’s what we aimed to do, go out and not lose. Then we go out to win the game. We definitely made enough chances to do so, we were just unfortunate we didn’t take them, But look at the number of saves Allan McGregor had to make. He had two at the most, two proper saves.
“Over 90 minutes against a team like Serbia, who have some very good players, that is good going. Their full-backs, for example, play for two of the biggest clubs in the world. That shows you what we were up against so to stop them making loads of chances shows we did very well.
“On another day we would have taken our chances, things would be a lot worse if we weren’t making chances and getting into positions to score.”
And Dixon believes a similar performance tonight will see Scotland pick up all three points, allowing the Tartan Army to breath a sigh of relief.
He said: “If we create the chances again then I am sure the boys will take them. I don’t know too much about Macedonia but I have seen Goran Pandev play for Inter Milan in the Champions League on television and at international level there are 11 great players in the team and a few more on the bench. They play for their country so they are top players.
“We have some great players ourselves so to be involved with and mixing with these guys, learning from them in training and in games as well is a great experience for myself. Hopefully I can do well and keep myself in the picture in the future.”
Another hoping to force his way into Levein’s plans on a permanent basis is striker Jordan Rhodes, briefly a team-mate of Dixon’s at Huddersfield before the former Scotland Under-21 star made a £8 million move to Blackburn Rovers.
Dixon said: “Jordan has gone on to big things with his move. He is a great lad and he has got to make his own way as football is a very short career. He got his move and I am sure he will do well.”