Former Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Packie Bonner believes both his former team and Scotland can taste the “life-changing” experience of playing in a major finals next summer.
Bonner became an Irish hero when he kept a clean sheet in his country’s first game at a major tournament – their 1-0 win over England in Germany in 1988 – and cemented his status when his penalty save from Romania’s Daniel Timofte helped send them into the World Cup quarter-finals two years later.
The former Celtic player, who is still based in Glasgow, is watching the climax of Group D very closely with both his native country and adopted land still vying for qualification for the European Championship finals in France.
Scotland need to get at least a point against Poland on Thursday to keep their play-off hopes alive while the Republic host Germany. And Bonner is convinced both teams could be on the plane to France if Scotland beat second-placed Poland.
“It’s really difficult to call,” said Bonner, who has just released his autobiography, The Last Line. “We are four points ahead but Scotland know if they can get a result against Poland then we could struggle against Germany and it goes down to the last game.
“I do think Scotland could get something against Poland. Ireland did it in the Aviva and there’s no reason why Scotland couldn’t. (Robert) Lewandowski is going through the time of his life but with the fans behind them and the passion that Hampden can produce, the players can do it.
“Ireland need a good performance against Germany. If we take something from that it would be a miracle because they are a good team, but we need a performance to take us into the last game.
“If Poland go into that game needing a result then they could be very nervous and we have nothing to lose. We got something in Germany and there’s no reason why we can’t go to Poland and get something.
“I have played against Poland many times and we have always been able to do something against them. Yes, they have some quality players but Ireland fight and they will fight to the end. They have shown in this group that they are never beaten.”
Bonner has been recalling his spells on the big stage when writing his book.
“It was life-changing,” the 55-year-old said. “When we qualified for the European Championship in ’88, we needed a bit of luck from Scotland, Gary Mackay scoring the goal that helped us qualify.
“But that was the start of it for us under Jack Charlton, giving us the confidence to take on the world. That first game against England in the European Championship changed my life.
“The World Cup in 1990, saving the penalty, again changed my life. All for the good. The way that captured the nation, I’m talking about it 25 years later and everyone knows exactly where they were.
“Everybody I speak to in Donegal says ’I was here, I was there’, and they can tell you who they were with. That’s the power of that emotion. When it’s good it sticks in your mind and you never forget it.
“That’s what international football can do for a country and I would love to see Ireland and Scotland getting there again and getting success when they’re there.
“If we get there first and foremost, both of us, then it would be fantastic and to do well the whole country will get behind it.
“There’s no better thing than having people coming up to you and thanking you for what you have done for them.”
Bonner’s book tells the story of a teenager who moved from Donegal to Glasgow to embark on a 20-year career with Celtic.
“It’s been a fantastic journey, sometimes stressful when you have to dig into certain areas where you don’t want to go,” he said at Celtic Park.
“But I have enjoyed looking back and I love looking back at my time in Donegal and the early years here and the 1980s, which was a really good time.”