Scotland boss Gordon Strachan hailed Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher after he wound up the failed Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a brilliant hat-trick.
Fletcher bagged three goals in a 6-0 demolition of minnows Gibraltar in neutral Faro, with Chris Martin, Shaun Maloney, thanks to a wonderful, curling finish, and Steven Naismith also on target.
The feat matched the former Wolves, Burnley and Hibs frontman’s treble in the home qualifier against Gibraltar.
He netted twice in four minutes after the break and then grabbed another with a fine 85th-minute finish – having hit the post earlier in the match.
Former Sunderland loanee Alan Hutton was instrumental in Fletcher’s first goal, Scotland’s third, ending a surging burst forward by standing up a cross for Fletcher to power in a header past keeper Jamie Robba.
The Sunderland striker then steered in his second, his guided left-footed shot from 14 yards going in off the far post.
His hat-trick came up with an excellent drive from outside the box.
On Fletcher, boss Gordon Strachan said: “He’s done well for us without scoring (before this week).
“I don’t mind if he doesn’t score every game but if he brings other people into play and he’s brave the way he is then I’ve not got a problem with that. I think he’s a super player.”
Fletcher – who has now scored five goals in his last three games for club and country – paid tribute to the travelling Tartan Army support after a personal week to remember – he also netted a fine goal in Thursday’s 2-2 Hampden draw with Poland.
“It was a great performance on a hard pitch, but we had 10,000 fans watching us so we had to put a performance on and I think we did so,” he said.
“We wanted to show them that we’re not down out and we still wanted to go out with a fight even if there was nothing to play for.
“It’s been a nice week on a personal level but obviously I wanted to qualify – that was the main aim, and it’s disappointing, but it was nice to get the match ball.”
Strachan’s contract is up and he will decide soon whether he wishes to continue, but the former Scotland midfielder said: “The fans – as they always say – if they see a group of players who give their best and try their best, will support them.
“And that was never more clearer than this evening.
“In football, I have been lucky to have been in stadiums with special atmospheres and it is usually winning a cup or league or doing something, a fantastic result.
“To have one of your more memorable nights in football away to Gibraltar, if you had asked me that 20 years ago then no. But as I leave here tonight, you think, I have seen a special night in terms of the bond between fans and players.
“It was a special evening. We did win and it made it special for the players, they are in there buzzing because of the support they got.
“It is quite an emotional night.
“You fail to qualify and these people are chanting for the team. It was a special moment. Most of the special moments you get in football are with success.
“If you said to me on Friday we were going to have a special night tonight then I would say ‘no’, but it has happened.”
Strachan reiterated his plans to resolve his future as the former Celtic and Middlesbrough boss said: “I will speak to people in my life, family side or management side, but I have to say I am so proud to be the Scotland manager.”