Scotland head coach Clarke looking to make up for missed chances

Steve Clarke is still hurting from missing out on a major international tournament as a player.

It meant the new Scotland head coach jumped at the chance to lead his country back to a finals for the first time since 1998.

Clarke won five caps in the 1987-88 season, not long after moving from St Mirren to Chelsea. Scotland were unbeaten in those five matches but it took him six years to play again for his country.

That 3-1 friendly defeat by Holland proved his final appearance and Clarke still rankles at being overlooked by Andy Roxburgh and Craig Brown.

Steve Clarke spoke at a Hampden media conference
Steve Clarke spoke at a Hampden media conference (Jane Barlow/PA)

The 55-year-old will remind any players whose commitment is wavering that they have a chance to achieve something most can only dream of.

“That’s down to my skills as a manager, I have to sell the idea, I have to sell the way we are going to play, the way we are going to be in camp,” said Clarke, who was appointed on Monday after leading Kilmarnock into Europe.

“But I only managed to get six caps and, I tell you now, it still hurts me that I only got six, because I believe my career deserved more.

“I was very close to the squad that went to Italia 1990. I went on a pre-tournament trip to Genoa. I think there were 26 players went and I was one of the ones that got cut for the final selection. That still hurts me.

Steve Clarke only won six caps as a player
Steve Clarke only won six caps as a player (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“So a burning ambition of mine is to take Scotland to a major international tournament.

“I spoke with Andy Robertson this morning just to touch base and if everybody is as enthusiastic and determined as Andy is, then we’ll have a great chance.

“I was saying to Andy about qualifying, it should be the pinnacle of your career as a professional, to represent your country at a major tournament, and that’s the carrot in front of this group of players.”

Clarke’s predecessor, Alex McLeish, suffered from a host of call-offs in recent games. Allan McGregor and James McArthur quit the international scene while the likes of Matt Ritchie, Robert Snodgrass and Steven Fletcher made themselves temporarily unavailable for fitness reasons.

Clarke, who begins with Euro 2020  said: “The door’s open to everybody at this moment in time.

“I won’t be chasing down players who have retired. If a player has retired from international football, I respect that decision, and if they want to come back to fold they have to get in touch with myself or the Scottish Football Association.

“The ones who have pulled out of squads a little bit too easily, it’s down to me to have that conversation with them and sell my vision and how we’re going to approach this tournament. And hopefully we are going to get as many good players on board as possible.

“It’s going to be different for me as well because I’ve only ever been a club manager but I’m going to have to try and put together a club philosophy so that when players come they feel they are part of a club.”

Clarke has no time to waste with games against Cyprus at Hampden on June 8 and Belgium in Brussels three days later as Scotland look to recover from losing their opening Euro 2020 qualifier in Kazakhstan.

They have the play-offs as fallback after winning their Nations League group but Clarke is determined to get back into the hunt for automatic qualification.

He said: “I only want players who are 100 per cent committed to the national team. I will certainly be 100 per cent committed.

“I will give everything I’ve got to try to qualify, and qualify through the group stages. I think that’s important to say. We slipped up in the first game so we have to make sure we pick up points, and the two games in June are absolutely crucial.”

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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