SHAUN MALONEY admits Scotland’s failure to reach the Euro Finals in France next summer was even more agonising than Black Sunday.
The former Celtic midfielder was on the substitutes’ bench when Motherwell scored two late goals at Fir Park to send the chopper and the title to Easter Road after Rangers had pipped Hibs 1-0 in one of the blackest days in Hoops’ history in 2005.
But Maloney reckons the latest tale of international woe is even more difficult to accept.
He insisted: “I’d probably say it was the worst. I’ve lost leagues on the final day and I’ve been relegated with Wigan.”
Maloney, though, believes he will never forget attempting to block Robert Lewandowski’s late, late equaliser in the 2-2 draw at Hampden last Thursday.
He said: “I was lying there in the back of the net. It was heartbreaking. It felt as if the world went into slow motion when that ball hit the post.
“I’d imagine it was the same for everyone in the stadium. The feeling of utter despair ran through the players and everyone watching. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that feeling.”Maloney added: “There will come a time nearer the tournament in France when we’re going to have to be honest and wish the Welsh and the Irish all the best. England go in as one of the stronger sides and playing down there you obviously have to respect their national side.
“It feels as though every other nation is having a seminal moment in their football history and we’ve got the pain, the real pain, of not making it.
“Group tables don’t lie and eventually we came up short, not through any lack of trying. We’re starting to bridge the quality divide. That’s what it feels like.
“We’re not quite there, but we’re certainly closer than we have been in recent years.”
Maloney, who had two spells at Celtic, will be 33 by the time World Cup qualifiers kick off, but he hope to still be around the international set-up.
He said: “I absolutely love playing for Scotland. It will be the manager who decides when I stop playing and not me.”Moments like that against Poland can be motivating down the line. You remember in pre-season when a certain amount of work takes a physical toll. They fuel the fire.
“Hearing the crowd in Faro is another reason to get yourself up in the morning. That was definitely part of the sad feeling in Portugal, that we couldn’t give them a successful qualifying campaign and yet they still reacted like that.
“But I think they can see the squad got very close this time.”