Connect with us

Football

Scotland Euro 2024 squad: Steve Clarke’s key decisions ahead of initial announcement

Published

on

Steve Clarke will name his initial Scotland squad for Euro 2024 on Wednesday – but who could be on that plane to Germany?

In recent weeks that picture has become less clear following injuries to key players.

There are issues at right-back, while decisions need to be made in the goalkeeping department and in midfield.

Therefore, it should be no surprise when more than the permitted 26 players are named – giving Clarke time to assess options in the weeks before the June 7 deadline.

A total of 29 players featured across Scotland’s eight qualifiers – with Clarke saying the “core squad” from that successful campaign “deserve the chance to go to the Euros” – meaning he will have some very tough calls to make…

Defensive dilemma

Aaron Hickey (left) and Nathan Patterson (centre) are set to miss the Euros due to injury
Image:
Aaron Hickey (left) and Nathan Patterson (centre) will miss the Euros due to injury

The big question-mark comes at right-back. Aaron Hickey will miss out with a hamstring injury having having not played for Brentford since last October.

To Hickey’s likely back-up, Nathan Patterson. The Everton defender is also out after suffering a hamstring injury of his own in last month’s stoppage-time defeat to Chelsea.

So who does Clarke turn to? Well the good news is he won’t be short of alternatives.

Anthony Ralston could be an option – having featured in recent squads – but is not first choice at Celtic. Ex-Aberdeen defender Ross McCrorie could be in the mix too having impressed at Bristol City, and was called-up last June in place of the injured Ralston at the time.

Ross McCrorie could return to the Scotland squad after an impressive season
Image:
Ross McCrorie could return to the Scotland squad after an impressive season

Elsewhere, former Motherwell player Max Johnston won the Austrian title at Sturm Graz this season and was a substitute for last year’s friendly against France, while Liam Palmer played 38 games for Sheffield Wednesday.

There is always the option of trying to lure the likes of Newcastle’s Tino Livramento to declare for Scotland, or will he consider a back to the future approach and deploy Kieran Tierney at right-back instead of his centre-back role?

There is some good news in defence too. Norwich’s Grant Hanley and Copenhagen’s Scott McKenna – who both withdrew from the March camp due to injury – did return to action for their clubs before the end of the season.

Grant Hanley (left) and Scott McKenna (right) have both withdrawn from the Scotland squad due to injury
Image:
Grant Hanley (left) and Scott McKenna (right) are both fit again after injury

Whatever players Clarke selects for right-back – they will have two warm-up games in June against Finland and Gibraltar to try and claim that starting spot for the tournament opener against Germany.

Who will make it in midfield?

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MARCH 26: Scotland Manager Steve Clarke and  Lewis Ferguson at Full Time during an International Friendly match between Scotland and Northern Ireland at Hampden Park, on March 26, 2024, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Image:
Lewis Ferguson underwent surgery on an ACL injury

While Serie A star Lewis Ferguson’s hopes are over after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament – there could be good news for Scotland fans with Stuart Armstrong in the mix to return from injury.

Ferguson featured in three qualifiers and both March friendlies – and while he may not have started in Germany – the Bologna captain would have been in Clarke’s squad had he not been forced to undergo surgery.

Armstrong meanwhile was stretchered off in Southampton’s defeat to Cardiff City last month, however, club boss Russell Martin says the player has a “big chance” of making it.

Stuart Armstrong fired home a late equaliser for Southampton at Watford
Image:
Stuart Armstrong has been recovering from an injury picked up against Cardiff in April

It is an area of the pitch where Clarke is blessed with various quality options.

Callum McGregor, John McGinn, Scott McTominay and Ryan Christie featured in all eight Euro qualifiers – a feat only matched by forward Lyndon Dykes – suggesting the boss will be consistent with his approach in the middle.

Kenny McLean (7) and Billy Gilmour (5) featured regularly too and would be expected to board the plane to Germany.

Image:
Ryan Christie, John McGinn and Scott McTominay are all set to head to Germany for the Euros

However, could Celtic’s James Forrest get one of those extra spots on the plane? Despite not featuring for the national team since 2021 he ended the season in great form with his club, scoring five goals in eight games, and could provide a different option offensively – or even slot in a right wing-back role.

Aberdeen's Connor Barron (left) and Celtic's James Forrest are both in the frame for a spot in the Scotland squad
Image:
Aberdeen’s Connor Barron (left) and Celtic’s James Forrest are both in the frame for a spot in the Scotland squad

Aberdeen’s Connor Barron is also reportedly in line for a surprise call-up after impressing for Aberdeen this season.

Gordon to make remarkable return?

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - MARCH 19: Craig Gordon and Angus Gunn during a Scotland training session at Lesser Hampden, on March 19, 2024, in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Image:
Angus Gunn (right) is the new Scotland number one, having replaced Craig Gordon (left)

Norwich goalkeeper Angus Gunn will be Clarke’s No 1 after beating Hearts’ Zander Clark and Motherwell’s Liam Kelly to the gloves at the start of the qualification campaign.

After pledging his allegiance to Scotland – despite playing for England U21s – he took over from the injured Craig Gordon who had been recovering from a double leg break suffered in December 2022.

However, at 41 years old, Gordon is back and did return to the Scotland fold as one of four keepers for the March friendlies.

Zander Clark (left) has started in all of Hearts' league games in place of the returning Craig Gordon
Image:
Zander Clark (left) and Craig Gordon are hoping to be in the Scotland squad for Euro 2024

Only three are expected to head to Germany – so who misses out?

Kelly played the first-half of last October’s defeat to France but in the Scottish Premiership kept just three clean sheets all season, while Motherwell conceded 59 goals – the joint fourth most.

SEVILLE, SPAIN - OCTOBER 12: Scotland's Liam Kelly (L) and Zander Clark (R) before a UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifier at the Estadio De La Cartuja, on October 12, 2023, in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Image:
Zander Clark (right) started Scotland’s final two qualifiers ahead of Liam Kelly (left) when Angus Gunn was injured

Clark meanwhile kept 16 clean sheets – a number only bettered by Rangers’ Jack Butland – as Hearts conceded the least goals out of any club outside the Old Firm.

Gordon was kept out of action by Clark at club level – although did feature in three league games and four cup matches – and would overtake David Weir as Scotland’s oldest international if he plays, at 41

Clarke did run the rule over his options during training earlier this year and suggested not only game time will come into his decision.

“I’ll assess everything I’ve got,” said the Scotland boss. “The make-up of the squad going into a tournament has other factors like squad stability and players who have been in the squad for a long time, so it’s going to be a tough decision.”

Striker surprise?

Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes have played in the majority of Scotland's games
Image:
Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes have played in the majority of Scotland’s games

Could there be a surprise at the top end of the pitch?

Dykes and Che Adams were almost guaranteed to be in the squad, and after a season to remember Lawrence Shankland should be on that plane to Germany too.

The Hearts forward scored 31 goals in all competitions and netted during Scotland’s draw in Georgia.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

A look at some of the best goals Hearts’ Lawrence Shankland scored in the Scottish Premiership this season as he finished the league’s top goalscorer.

The likes of Luton Town’s Jacob Brown and Millwall’s Kevin Nisbet were left out of the last Scotland squad after tough seasons at club level.

Will Clarke stick to three – or could there be a shock call up for another name reportedly under consideration, Ben Doak?

Liverpool's Ben Doak battles for the ball with Union SG's Kevin Mac Allister
Image:
Liverpool’s Ben Doak is reportedly in the mix for a spot in Scotland’s Euro squad

The Liverpool forward, 18, is uncapped at senior level having made six appearances for the U21 side while another wild card could be Southampton’s Ross Stewart, who returned to action in the play-off first-leg against West Brom.

Ross Stewart in action for Southampton during their Championship play-off semi-final first leg at West Brom.
Image:
Ross Stewart has had several injury issues to deal with this season

Watch Scotland’s squad announcement for Euro 2024 on Wednesday live on Sky Sports News from 11am.

Scotland’s Euro 2024 warm-up matches

June 3: Gibraltar (n), friendly, kick-off 5pm

June 7: Finland (h), friendly, kick-off 7.45pm

Who do Scotland face at Euro 2024?

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Scotland boss Steve Clarke on Euro 2024, facing hosts Germany, the role of Scott McTominay, the fans and having a German beer!

Following the final friendlies against Gibraltar and Finland, Scotland will head to their Euro 2024 base camp located in the Bavarian resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen on June 9.

Clarke’s side play the tournament’s opening match against hosts Germany at the Allianz Arena on June 14.

The Scots also face games against perennial qualifiers Switzerland and Hungary, who reached the knockout stages in 2016.

Scotland

Scotland have history kicking off tournaments, having been drawn to face Brazil in the opener at World Cup 1998, a game they narrowly lost 2-1 to a second-half Tom Boyd own goal.

This time they begin at the Allianz Arena before facing Switzerland in Cologne on June 19, with Hungary awaiting in Stuttgart on June 23.

Get Sky Sports on WhatsApp!

You can now start receiving messages and alerts for the latest breaking sports news, analysis, in-depth features and videos from our dedicated WhatsApp channel!

Find out more here…

Continue Reading