Win and we’re in

Bel­gium’s tri­umph over Bos­nia & Herze­gov­ina means Scot­land are guar­an­teed a World Cup play-off place if we beat Slove­nia to­day

Sunday Mail (UK) - - Front Page - Graeme Dono­hoe in Ljubl­jana

The Tar­tan Army have laid siege to the Slove­nian cap­i­tal Ljubl­jana – mount­ing a full-on as­sault of the bars and even storm­ing its castle.

Scot­land sup­port­ers launched the takeover yes­ter­day as they pre­pared to help Gor­don Stra­chan’s Brave­hearts breach Slove­nia’s de­fences tonight and con­tinue our march to Rus­sia 2018.

Our trav­ell ing fans made their pres­ence felt by hang­ing a Saltire from Ljubl­jana Castle .

Friends David Birnie, 44, Ross Turner, 28, Gary Turner, 55, Liam New­ton, 26, and Gerry Ga­han, 52, scaled the tower, which is perched 1200ft above the city.

David, from Leith, said: “It was some climb and I’m ab­so­lutely shat­tered.

“We’ve in­vaded the castle and flown the flag for Scot­land and now we’ve just got to do what we can to help the team do the busi­ness.”

The Tar­tan Army had early cause for cel­e­bra­tion as they watched Bel­gium beat Bos­nia– Herze­gov­ina 4- 3. The re­sult means a Scot­land win tonight will guar­an­tee us a World Cup play-off match – no ifs, buts or maybes.

About 5000 Scot­land fans have made the trip to cheer on the team – even though the Slove­nian FA handed over just 2567 tick­ets for the match.

Last week, we re­vealed how the foot­ball au­thor­i­ties had at­tempted to clamp down on the Tar­tan Army tak­ing over the 16,000- ca­pac­ity sta­dium by can­celling fans’ on­line or­ders.

But that didn’t put off sup­port­ers from mak­ing the jour­ney to be at the most im­por­tant match of the cam­paign – and nei­ther did the dra­matic col­lapse of Monarch Air­lines, which threw the travel plans of some foot sol­diers into jeop­ardy. John Watt and six friends made it to Ljubl­jana af­ter an epic jour­ney in­volv­ing two planes, a mono­rail, a train, a bus and a gon­dola af­ter their orig­i­nal travel plans were scup­pered by Monarch fold­ing.

The 44-year- old, from Pais­ley, said: “We were meant to be f ly­ing from Gatwick to Za­greb but all our flights were can­celled on Mon­day.

“But there was no way we were miss­ing this game, so we plot­ted a route to get us here. We got a taxi to Glas­gow Air­port, then a plane to Gatwick and a mono­rail be­tween ter­mi­nals to jump a train to Lu­ton.

“Then we flew from Lu­ton to Venice, got on a gon­dola to take us to a minibus,

which then took us a three-hour ride to Ljubl­jana.”

Alas­tair Young, 34, of Mauch­line, Ayr­shire, was fu­ri­ous af­ter book­ing Monarch f l ights to Za­greb via Manch­ester for him and two pals just days be­fore they went out of busi­ness.

He said: “They took £600 off us on the Satur­day and then went bust on the Mon­day. It’s pretty shame­less.

“I was scram­bling about like mad to get new flights, be­cause we had our tick­ets for the match.

“We had to get a train to Lu­ton and then flew to Ljubl­jana and it cost us £1100. That’s how de­ter­mined we were to get here.”

Ste­wart Park was among a group of 13 fans who paid £580 to get a taxi to Ljubl­jana from Za­greb in Croa­tia.

The 54-year- old, from San­quhar, Dum­friesshire, said: “We f lew from Glas­gow to Za­greb via Am­s­ter­dam and then shelled out 650 eu­ros to get a minibus here. But it’ll be worth it if we qual­ify for Rus­sia.”

Even Wil­liam Wal­lace will be at the game tonight to sup­port our Brave­hearts. The 66-year- old, from Kirk­con­nel, Dum­friesshire, said: “No one ever be­lieves me when I tell them I’m Wil­liam Wal­lace but I had the name be­fore Mel Gib­son.”

Mean­while, Sammy Wight­man isn’t let­ting throat can­cer stop him from cheer­ing on Scot­land.

The 58-year- old, from Mother­well, was di­ag­nosed three years ago but has trav­elled to ev­ery one of Scot­land’s World Cup qual­i­fiers – ex­cept the Lithua­nia game, when his travel plans were scup­pered by a Ryanair f light can­cel­la­tion.

He said: “I’ve had 30 ra­dio­ther­apy treat­ments and al­though I might not be able to shout as loud, I’ll be roar­ing them on against Slove­nia.

“I’ve been fol­low­ing Scot­land home and away since my dad took me to games as a wee boy and noth­ing gets in the way of me fol­low­ing my coun­try.

“It’s been far too long since the Tar­tan Army and Scot­land made it to a World Cup and I’m feel­ing con­fi­dent.”

SLOVING IT Scot­land fans in Ljubl­jana yes­ter­day. Right, Leigh Grif­fiths IN WITH A SPROUT Bel­gian stars Thomas Me­u­nier and Dries Mertens cel­e­brate

CON­QUERORS Tar­tan Army fans David Birnie, Ross Turner, Gary Turner, Liam New­ton and Gerry Ga­han

STAND­ING PROUD Scot­land fans make their pres­ence felt in Slove­nian cap­i­tal

CRUIS­ING TO VIC­TORY? Up­beat sup­port­ers in Ljubl­jana

IT’S TIME Greenock sup­port­ers POS­I­TIVE STEER Scot­land fan

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