“TO cut a long story short, we lost.” The opening words from Craig Brown in the wonderful documentary ‘Mr Brown’s Boys’ screened on the BBC this week, which succeeded somehow in whetting the appetite for the European Championships by raking over the wreckage of the last major tournament Scotland were involved in.

But just as the pessimism of those words from Brown are in no way a reflection of his amiable character and relentless optimism surrounding the national team, neither does the exit from France ’98 and the results therein even begin to reflect upon the experience for thousands of members of the Tartan Army.

For a generation or more, Scottish fans have been denied the privilege of seeing their heroes in dark blue on such a stage, and while the parties will be confined to homes and pubs for the most part this time around, the excitement is just as palpable as it was 23 years ago.

Reassuringly, the irrepressible Brown remains as cheerful about Scotland’s prospects as he was when he led the nation to the Stade De France to face down Brazil. More so, if anything.

"I think we have got a team that is capable of getting us the full distance, honestly,” Brown told Sky Sports yesterday.

"I'm not being daft or patriotic - I'm genuinely optimistic we can go the distance here and we have every capability in that team.”

This isn’t just a friendly interviewee throwing a willing journalist a line, either, there is method behind what many will view as madness.

"When I see other countries that have won it - Portugal won it without winning a group game, Greece won it,” he said. “Way back in 1992, Denmark won it. They came from nowhere.

"It is possible for someone else, not a big, high-profile team, to win it, and I think Scotland have a chance this time."

Stirring stuff. And it isn’t the first time that Brown has inspired the nation to believe, as the documentary showed. Or his players.

“We’re in the tunnel, and you could just smell this brilliant fragrance coming over,” recalled Paul Lambert of the moments before Scotland faced Brazil in that opening match in Paris.

“They’ve not got a hair out of place and they look brilliant, they smell great. We’ve got big Jim Leighton and (Craig) Burley with no teeth.

“It was typical Scotland, we’re all white and they’re all looking brilliant and the Samba music is going and everything.

“Then there was a deathly silence in the tunnel. It went really quiet. All of a sudden there’s a Scottish voice at the back that goes ‘Don’t worry lads, they’re f*****g s******g themselves!’

“We’re all turning round going ‘Who’s f*****g said that?’ It was Craig, Craig Brown.”

What this look behind the scenes revealed is that the old perceptions of Brown as ‘The Schoolteacher’, a moniker imposed on him by the press upon his appointment as Scotland boss owing to his previous profession, does neither his personality nor his achievements justice.

Brown, after all, has been to five major tournaments as part of the coaching staff, and led the country to Euro ’96 and France ’98. Achievements that may have come to be appreciated a little more the longer that Scotland were absent from such a stage, but that the man himself recalls weren’t exactly greeted with much fanfare at the time.

Perhaps the best testimony to his standing within Scottish sporting history though should go to the men he led to those grand occasions, and know best how influential he was in the success of the national side at that time.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Craig,” said John Collins. “He’s a smart guy. Friendly. A warm, charismatic character.”

“Without a doubt the nicest person I’ve met in football. In or out of football,” said Jim Leighton.

“Very humble,” said Darren Jackson. “He’d never shout it from the rooftops, but you can never take away what he has achieved.”

“He did a hell of a job,” said captain Colin Hendry. “He did an incredible job for the national team.”

“I thought he was a very good Scotland manager to be quite honest with you, because as he’ll tell you, he didn’t have much to work with!” said Craig Burley, goalscorer against Norway in ’98.

The final word should go to the man himself though, underappreciated perhaps in his own time, but now treasured by Tartan Army members young and old. Typically though, he would rather just talk about Scotland.

"I am a Tartan Army man and I am desperate to see Scotland at a tournament, and I think the rest of Europe loves Scotland being involved because the fans bring colour and excitement," Brown said.

"When you look at the countries involved, there are some very well-known countries and some prestigious names in football, but we played the other day against the Netherlands and they are one of the favourites.

"I genuinely think we can go the distance."

You know what Craig? I think you’re right. They’re s******g themselves.

*'Mr Brown's Boys' is available on BBC iPlayer.