IT’S a drama that never seems to end. The restless dilemma of Scottish football is designed to lure you into a minefield of emotional and philosophical reflection.

One question that regularly crops up is posed as a simple choice – club versus ­country?

If forced to make a hypothetical choice, would you side with your club over your country or would you always put nation first?

It is of course a false flag question. Most football fans never have to answer the ­question and so it usually evaporates back into vague emotional attachments. Most players can move around different clubs numerous times in their careers, but once established they can only play for one ­country.

This week it has become a pressing ­issue. Scotland stand ready to play one of the most emotional games ever, playing Ukraine at Hampden in times of war, when the world will emotionally tilt towards the visitors.

Meanwhile, my club side St ­Johnstone, rediscovered their mojo and for a ­scintillating 45 minutes, tore Inverness to shreds in the playoff final, to retain their status as a top league team.

I have not yet shaken off the ­excitement of club football to fully embrace the ­Scotland match yet. St Johnstone’s ­victory was epic to behold, and I want to cling on to it for a few more days before worrying about the national team.

What a brilliant end to a game it was in Perth. In these challenging days of ­gender non-conformity, St Johnstone’s right wing-back, the bearded Shaun ­Rooney chipped the Caley keeper to score the fourth ­wonderous goal, then ran the length of the McDiarmid Park pitch in a black-bra.

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It was startling self-indulgence which turned a nervous night into racy ­burlesque. Rooney then capped the proceedings by grabbing the megaphone from the capo of the St Johnstone ultras and then led the chanting of his own name.

Shaun Rooney is a force of nature. He is the only player in the 21st century to have scored in both Scottish cup finals in the same season.

Whatever his raw and gregarious style may disguise; Shaun Rooney has never lacked self-confidence. He even ­christened himself the “Belshill Cafu”, a nod to his hometown and the great ­Brazilian wing back. Most footballers wait until their team-mates gift them a nickname, Rooney turned up with his own self-aggrandising moniker already in place.

Bizarre though it may seem, Rooney’s success at St Johnstone reminded me of a recent debate about self-confidence in our national character.

You may recall the publication of Carol Craig’s The Scots Crisis Of Confidence which unlocked a national debate about whether a colonised lack of confidence had restrained Scotland’s progress over decades.

Although it was a debate that ­underscored the legacy of ­deindustrialisation, it was a stigma that clearly passed Shaun Rooney by.

Within days of saving St Johnstone, Rooney was off to Fleetwood Town, and was photographed posing with the club’s red and white merchandise, and ­singing the praises of his new manager Scott Brown, another Scot who was never held back by a lack of self-confidence.

Meanwhile, Scotland manager Steve Clarke announced the national squad that will compete against Ukraine, at the height of the Russian invasion and the atrocities of the war. Much as I wish the macabre truth of Mariupol to be exposed to the world, I want Scotland to triumph and to put on a show.

One of Steve Clarke’s greatest ­achievements has been to instil that ­elusive self-confidence into his squad and through them to the Tartan Army, and on to the wider Scottish public.

Football is nothing if not an overly ­emotional game. So, I always answer the club versus country debate with the same impregnable answer – both and always.

I will support St Johnstone and ­Scotland until the day I die and, on many ­occasions, both in their own ways have made death seem eminently more ­preferable than a lifetime of suffering.

But when the joys of progress or the sweet thrill of victory come along, they can be so high, so blissful that ­nothing ­other than love itself, compares to ­football.

Football is a game in which love is nurtured. When St Johnstone played ­Inverness, I sat next to a father and his two young boys. We didn’t know each ­other and only had St Johnstone in ­common.

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But what was emotionally uplifting was that throughout the game the dad ­reassured them as they got nervous and then joined in the chants from Fair City Unity (FCU), the remarkable ultra-group who occupy the North Section of Perth’s East Stand. It was a masterclass in ­fatherhood.

FCU’s tifos rolled out to display a ­landscape of the city of Perth and as the goals rained down in on the Inverness keeper, the gloaming skies lit up with flares and pyrotechnics, beneath the darkened Sidlaw Hills. Oh, to be 17 again.

What struck me about that moment was not the football itself but what a local club can mean to a community, to its families and to the often-complicated art of child rearing. What I witnessed was a man ­mentoring his kids through the emotions of a game, taking pride in converting them to the cause and goading them to enjoy the ­spectacle. Unashamedly he sang along with them.

Over the last two decades, supporting Scotland has been a painful experience until the taciturn Clarke took up the reins and began the long slow journey back to credibility.

In Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of ­Venice the persecuted Shylock says of his Jewish faith, “sufferance is the badge of all our tribe”. Aye very good, I hear you chorus, but you weren’t in Portugal in 1993 when we got hosed 5-O in a World Cup qualifier, and the heavens opened.

Clarke’s turnaround in Scotland’s fortunes has not been easy on the eye, at times efficiency has trumped glamour, but make no mistake Scotland are back and we cannot allow misplaced romanticism to stand in our way.

One of the fragile threads that connects club and country is when one of your players make into the national squad.

St Johnstone can lay claim to one ­player, the goalkeeper Zander Clark. ­Motherwell fans have two, their keeper Liam Kelly and the stolid right back ­Stephen O’Donnell. But It is Queens Park and Dundee United that can play the trump card, their former left-back is the Scottish captain, Andy Robertson.

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To say Robertson has had a busy week is to misuse the term. Recovering from an FA Cup final against Chelsea, he played for Liverpool in the Champions League final against Real Madrid, in Paris. After that he returns home to lead the Scotland squad.

Robertson, another personification of modern self-confidence, has already found the right tone telling the press that the war in Ukraine has to be set aside.

“When you watch it, it’s horrendous. You can’t avoid it, but we need to try and separate that,” Robertson said. “We’ll be so receptive of Ukraine before and after the game but during that 90 minutes, that 120 minutes, or whatever it takes, we have to be ready to fight for our dreams as well.”

It would be selfish to try to manipulate our dreams to my own benefit, but a wee bit of me wishes that Clarke would draft in Rooney just to see what Volodymyr Zelenskyy would make of Ukraine ­losing to a wonder goal scored by a bearded ­Brazilian born in Belshill.

Its war without tears, and my heart says Scotland.