THE unswerving loyalty that has been a feature of Craig Brown's term of office, and, indeed, a major ingredient in his recipe for relative success, may have been sacrificed for the sake of the common cause with the relegation of the broken Braveheart, Colin Hendry, but the national coach demonstrated once again last night that domestic demotion need not be mirrored by international condemnation.
Jonathan Gould, the perennial understudy to Neil Sullivan, finally succumbed to the inevitable on Sunday when Celtic manager Martin O'Neill introduced Robert Douglas to the fold for the 4-1 league victory against St Johnstone, weeks after his £1.2m signing from under the noses of their Old Firm rivals.
While O'Neill has since refused to confirm Douglas as his new No.1 choice, the fact that he has assumed the role between the posts now that European ineligibility is no longer a concern would indicate Gould's number might be up at Parkhead unless he accepts playing second fiddle.
The late injury to Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Sullivan, his thumb sticking out like, well, a sore one after an accident in the final practice session yesterday afternoon, might have put less faithful members of the coaching fraternity at a quandary but ever the humanitarian, Brown was considerate enough not to exacerbate Gould's personal predicament by denying him only his second cap since his rise to prominence north of the Border resulted in the emergence of a Scottish grandparent.
So, perhaps for one night only, Gould had the distinction (one he certainly would not be willing to promote) of being second choice for his club, behind Douglas, yet first choice for his country, ahead of Douglas. The former Dens Park favourite at least took comfort from the fact that his place on the bench signalled one step up the ladder with Alan Main having been dislodged from rung No.3.
Gould, at 32 hardly a long-term option in any case, had performed competently in his only previous outing, the 3-0 defeat of Lithuania in a meaningless Euro 2000 qualifier last winter, but even though the long-awaited return of the Aussies has been dismissed as ill-timed and meaningless in many quarters, he quite understandably, and possibly correctly, entered this international as if it were his last. Chest puffed, shoulders straightened, and padded hands clasped, Gould stood to attention for the national anthem - albeit an adopted one - and allowed his eyes to pan around the salubriously souped-up stadium for mental momentoes.
Unfortunately, the visitors seemed intent on spoiling his night as well as that of those 30,000 hardy souls who defied the South Side chill to confirm their status as members of the all-singing, all-dancing Tartan Army, but not even a twelfth-minute opener by Brett Emerton could quell the fans' enthusiasm, although from the shrill shrieks it quickly became apparent that a large percentage of the assembled audience were still at the squeaky schoolkid stage.
The away supporters gave themselves away not by the wine-cork decorated hats but instead by turning dressed up like the Michelin Man Appreciation Society, mummified by more items of clothing than your average Eskimo. No snags on the barbie, or piping-hot prune juice, Shiela, but a pie an' Bovril at hauf-time if ye want, hen.
The majority of the Australian squad, though, have acclimatised to Western conditions with all bar one now plying their trade on this Continent, but pity the poor Kasey Wehrman of Perth Glory, who must have wondered from his sheltered vantage point what the white stuff falling from the sky was. The half-time medley of unmistakably Caledonian ditties, from the Bonnie, Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond to the contemporary delights of The Proclaimers, was compiled to rouse a thoroughly unentertained crowd.
Without Mark Viduka, Mark Bosnich, Tony Vidmar, or Craig Moore there was little interest in Frank Farina's side, although former Scotland centre half Gordon McQueen, now on the Middlesbrough coaching staff, did make the pilgrimage with more than a passing interest in the form of Boro goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
In need of inspiration, Brown unleashed the blond bombshell, Hendry, to a rapturous reception.
Paul Dickov was also given a taste of the action with 25 minutes remaining and it was understandable, considering his Croatia indignity, that he made sure he was never the man furthest away from the dugout. He was barely on the field when the atmosphere was doused completely by David Zdrilic, only to be momentarily rekindled by the appearance of the now obligatory streaker near the end, who executed a near-perfect Klinsmann-style dive along the sodden turf before being huckled away. When the referee called time, Gould, perhaps for the last time in Scotland's colours, headed up the tunnel to not so much a Hampden Roar as a hollow whimper.