Connect with us

Football

Inside Steve Clarke’s Scotland squad plans as boss hints at ‘standby list’

Published

on

UNDERCOOKED in 2021 — but Scotland are oven-ready ahead of Euro 2024.

In 22 days time, Steve Clarke‘s heroes will carry the hopes of a nation in the tournament opener against Germany on June 14.

2

Steve Clarke has 22 days to put plans together before we play Germany at Euro 2024Credit: Getty

And, after naming his initial 28-man squad at Hampden yesterday, he sounded the Tartan Army’s battle cry.

While inexperience cost them dearly three years ago at a delayed Euro 2020 tournament, Clarke believes he’s assembled a squad more than capable of reaching the knockout stages this time.

He said: “We should be fantastically positive.

“Look at the number of caps we have now.

Read more Scotland stories

“Somebody asked me about the big difference between this squad and the last squad going to a major tournament, and the biggest difference is experience and the number of caps.

“The core group we tried to build and take forward are there.

“The number of caps is much healthier and hopefully we can go this time and make a little bit of history for Scottish football.

“In terms of the last one, we were never going to turn it down, were we?

“It can never come too soon because you can take that experience from the last camp of a three-game, ten-day window where you have to pick up four points. Basically that’s what it is.

“We all have a better understanding this time going into the tournament of what we need to do and how we need to do it to hopefully get the points we need to come out the group stages.

Former Rangers goalkeeper Antti Niemi makes surprise appearance in Scotland Euro squad announcement alongside Grado, Frankie Boyle and world’s strongest man Tom Stoltman

“So it’s always worthwhile qualifying and the more experience you can pick up the better.

“Then again, I look at this group of players — and I don’t want to make a big point to it — but there are some who are starting to age a little bit.

“At some stage there has to be a refresh.

“We need to start thinking that maybe we have to change in the future. But it seems that this group of players, the vast majority of them, deserve to be going to a major tournament.”

Celtic winger James Forrest and Rangers star Ryan Jack have both been included.

There’s also a place for uncapped Liverpool starlet Ben Doak.

With Aaron Hickey and Nathan Patterson both ruled out through injury, Anthony Ralston and Ross McCrorie have been drafted as potential starters at right-back.

Clarke said: “Listen, when you lose your two first-choice right backs, right wing-backs, there are going to be a lot of people who look and think, ‘What’s next?’.

“What’s next is Tony Ralston, who doesn’t play every week at his club.

“It was nice to see him get minutes on the pitch against St Mirren last week and put in a fantastic ball for the winning goal. He has been in the squads before, he has got a number of caps, he is reliable and now he has got a fantastic chance to nail down that position.

“Ross comes in on the back of a really difficult start to his Bristol City career.

“He had a really bad injury situation. It took him a long time to get over it.

“But in the second half of the season he has got into a good Bristol City team that finished reasonably well in the Championship and has got a lot of games under his belt.

“He has been in a couple of squads before so I have got a little feel for Ross and what his qualities and attributes are.

“Hopefully he can grab his chances as well.”

Along with Patterson and Hickey, Lewis Ferguson and Jacob Brown also both miss out through injury.

Clarke will need to submit his final 26-man squad on the day of the June 7 friendly against Finland.

The decision process has been a long one.

The national manager has agonised over players and positions and he now has two games — against Gibraltar and Finland — to finally settle on his Euros squad.

He admitted: “It was actually much more difficult if I’m being honest.

“We lost four players — Ferguson, Patterson, Hickey, Brown — who probably would have been in the squad.

“We now need to find four replacements and I’ve a number of players who are either returning to play or not playing very often at their clubs.

“You have to look at them and think, ‘OK, how do we get them in? How do we assess their fitness? How do we know their fitness?’.

“So there are still one or two doubts, even as we go into the last ten days before we get to the final selection of 26. That was the reason for the slightly bigger squad.

“It was just to give me a little bit of time to assess one or two different people and hopefully come up with the right choice at the end.”

Clarke revealed he will use Scot Gemmill’s Under-21 squad as his unofficial standby list — urging those players called up today to report for national duty.

He said: “There is no standby group.

“Well, there is a standby group because Scot will name an Under-21 squad group tomorrow for two upcoming friendly matches.

Read more on the Scottish Sun

“There is your standby group there.

“And what I would say to anybody who Scot picks for the Under-21s is that it is probably worth going to that camp, because you never know what’s going to happen over the next ten days.”

Scotland will have no official standby list - but new recruits will be from the U-21s

2

Scotland will have no official standby list – but new recruits will be from the U-21sCredit: Willie Vass

Keep up to date with ALL the latest news and transfers at the Scottish Sun football page

Continue Reading