Perhaps it is Scottish nature to look for the possible risks and drawbacks in an otherwise promising scenario, but while it is difficult to be dour in any way about Scotland’s qualification for a major tournament for the first time in more than two decades, there is one aspect of the Euro 2020 adventure of the nation that manager Steve Clarke is anything but looking forward to.
That’s the possibility of choosing his final 23-man team and the eventual heartbreaking talks he’s going to have with those he’s not going to have with him anymore.
After narrowly missing out on Andy Roxburgh in Italy’ 90, Clarke knows better than anyone what it feels like to narrowly miss out on making the Scotland squad for a big tournament, and he knows just too well how complicated those discussions can be.
But maybe it’s a sign of Scottish soccer’s revival that there are plenty of players that believe they should be there. Most of those chosen will certainly have played an important role in getting Scotland there in the first place, considering how much importance Clarke places on unity within his squad.
Clarke said, “There’s going to be a hell of a lot of good players who aren’t there,”
“That’s the toughest part of the job. Setting out a starting eleven and leaving players on the bench is one of the hardest aspects of being a soccer boss. It’s much harder to fully remove people from the squad.
“It’s something that I need to deal with. For them, I may have a certain amount of empathy, if not compassion. Since I was in a similar situation where I was very close to being in the 90’s squad in Italy. I was in the last party to go to a pre-tournament camp in Italy and I wasn’t chosen.
I’m trying to understand how they feel. I’m sure they’ll all take it the right way, no matter who doesn’t. But listen, before I pick the team, there’s still a long way to go.
I have to bring together a bigger team for the March games, the qualifiers for the World Cup. We are in a group where all the teams agree that there are points that need to be earned.
We’re hopefully not in the same position as the last time we had a team, Belgium, that just won every match and got 30 points. I don’t think this time that’s going to be the case.
Barring wounds, you’ve probably got the center of the team that’s going to be there. But the spots are still up for grabs.
“I think that’s a motivating factor for anyone who thinks they have a chance to be on the squad.”
So if any possible outliers who have not recently been in the Scotland squad want to keep an eye on the party, they’re going to have to do quite a bit to persuade Clarke that bringing his skills to the core community is worthwhile.
“Listen, every professional footballer is very ambitious, so if they think you can add one or two players who would make the squad/team better, then they would be accepted,” he said.
But I think it would be very unfair to the players who brought us there if you went down the road of getting in five, six, seven or eight players.
A big thing is the unity in the team, the togetherness. One of the things I’ve tried to do since I took the job is to keep the team’s core the same.
“I don’t think that’s going to change, to be honest.”