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Steve Clarke on Euros ambition, calm exterior & making dad proud



“My dad had a good life,” says Steve Clarke of his father Eddie, who passed away earlier this year, a victim of dementia. “He had a long life, gave us a good upbringing. Him and my mum brought up eight children. There’s a bit of him in me and I’d like to think there’s a bit of mum as well.”

Eddie Clarke was a football man and the guiding light of his son’s career. Strict, but ever-present in his boy’s transition from Beith Juniors to St Mirren and onwards to the bright lights of London where he became one of Chelsea’s most respected players.

What would Chelsea give for Clarke’s mental strength in defence right now?

“My dad gave us good standards, good morals, and hopefully we can make him proud,” he adds. “He probably understood that I was manager of Scotland, but then, with the dementia, he didn’t really. I don’t think he was retaining any of the information.

“He saw me through my whole career. He was always there to support me and it’s sad that he didn’t really have a good grasp at the end that his son was manager of Scotland and actually doing OK in the job.”

Recent disappointments apart, Clarke is doing better than OK.

In the latest edition of This Sporting Life he talks about his time in football, from his early days in Scotland to the move to London in his early twenties with a wife and an 18-month old daughter. Big games, big characters and a move into coaching sparked by his late friend, Gianluca Vialli, his then manager at Chelsea.

“That last summer (as a player), Luca said to me, ‘Come on, Clarkie, we go to Bermuda’,” he explains. “We played some golf and he said, ‘Clarkie, you’re going to be a coach.”

He laughs as he recalls how it played out. “So, in the nicest possible way, and probably the one person that I would have accepted it from was Luca, he ended my playing career and sent me on a different road. Probably did me a favour.”

Clarke is on a winless run that has stretched to seven games and he’s in danger of losing a coterie of important players to injury ahead of the Euros, but he remains a rock. Never too high, never too low. Just solid.

And forever thinking. Arresting the run of defeats will occupy his every waking thought right now,

His ability to remain calm no matter what kind of mayhem is crashing around his ears will be put to the test again on 14 June when the eyes of European football will be on him and his team as they face the hosts in Munich. Not far off now. How’s the heart-rate?

“I think the heart’s always going, but the deadpan is always there as well,” he says. “It’s just the way that I conduct myself. For matches, I’ve always tried to be the same. I always try to exude calmness, but I’m maybe not always calm inside.

“I’ll be telling the players we have to play the game, not the occasion. We can’t get carried away too much by the fact it’s an opening game.

“Everyone’s going to feel the emotion, but you have to use the emotion in a positive way. What you can’t do is get overtaken by the emotion and be a little bit of a tourist. We’re there as professionals to do a job and the job is to win the match.”

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