Wales manager Chris Coleman has revealed he considered his position after losing 6-1 in Serbia three years ago.
Coleman is on the brink of becoming the first Wales manager for 58 years to lead the country to a major finals, his side needing a point from final Euro 2016 qualifiers in Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday and at home to Andorra on Tuesday to make it to France next summer.
The former Wales defender was a long way from national hero status when his Novi Sad nightmare unfolded in September 2012, but says he would have been “a coward” had he walked away in the wake of that defeat.
“I had doubts whether I was capable of doing the job after the Serbia game,” said Coleman, who had succeeded the late Gary Speed the previous January.
“It’s a job I wanted to do but did I come in at the wrong time? That was the lowest I’ve ever been.
“But I’ve been at clubs in tough situations, you lose a game or you have a bad run of games.
“But we didn’t just lose in Serbia, we embarrassed ourselves and when you do that you embarrass the country – and that’s another ball game. I’d never felt that before.”
Coleman said he spoke to those closest to him, his fiancee and now wife, the television presenter Charlotte Jackson, then Wales assistant manager Kit Symons and media manager Ian Gwyn Hughes, in the days after that sorry 6-1 thrashing.
And he recalled some advice from his father to stay in his job and build on the foundations put in place by Speed to lead the country towards its first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup.
“I spoke to my wife and Kit and I went to Ian’s house a few nights after we got back,” Coleman said.
“We sat down, had a glass of wine, a bit of dinner and we had a good chat. It was tough.
“But I think I’d have been a bit of a coward if I’d walked away.
“If it is a fight, my father always said to me, ‘If you lose, you’ve got to be walking forward throwing punches back, not on your hands and knees crawling away getting kicked in the backside’.
“But it did hurt and it took me quite a few days to calm down, think rationally and get on with it.
“Winning for your country is great, but losing in that manner, well, that was something new to me.”
Coleman has since turned Wales’ fortunes around to such an extent that they are close to enjoying one of the biggest parties in the nation’s football history.
Wales top the Group B standings after remaining unbeaten in Euro 2016 qualifying, have lost only once in 13 games and have climbed into the top eight of the FIFA world rankings.
And there is a delicious irony that Wales could book their ticket to France in the Bosnian football stronghold of Zenica, only 185 miles from the Novi Sad scene of his lowest career moment.
“When I saw the group I thought Bosnia away is a tough one,” Coleman said.
“I thought it would be interesting to see if we could cope with it.
“The last time we were in this position in Serbia we all buckled under the pressure, myself included.
“The challenge now is to see how far we have come from then.”
It has been a long journey for everyone in Welsh football since Serbia – but come Saturday night it could be one which ends in France.