In the past, it would have been considered extravagant for Scotland to prepare for a match in Georgia by staying at a training facility in Antalya. Due to the lack of Scottish participation in major tournaments, being frugal was necessary.
Proving his success, Scotland’s present coach, Steve Clarke, has his employers exactly in the position he desires. When Clarke desired a five-star hotel headquarters in Glasgow, the Scottish Football Association complied.
The stop-off in Turkey this week was booked long ago, on the basis that the match in Tbilisi on Thursday could be meaningful, but there was never any prospect of plans changing after Scotland sealed their place at Euro 2024 last month. Back-to-back European Championship qualifications have boosted the Scottish FA’s coffers. Clarke’s on-field work diverts attention from unimpressive custodians of the national sport. So, when the manager says jump …
Clarke approaches this double- header – Norway are in Glasgow on Sunday – with much to ponder. There has been a backdrop of celebration to Scotland securing a spot in Germany next summer but Clarke appears aware of the dangers of treading water. Defeat to France in Lille was hardly disastrous yet that was a third in a row for the Scots. The losing run sits uneasily with the man in charge.
Clarke agreed to friendlies with France and England – Spain also saw off Scotland in October – with the short- and medium‑term future in mind. Barring a lucky draw, Scotland progressing to the second phase of a major tournament for the first time depends on them excelling against elite opposition.
Afterwards, Clarke will guide his team to the highest tier of the Nations League; this may be challenging given France and England’s (yes, they were demoted from Group A, but the fact remains) strong performances against Scotland. Through their own impressive displays, Clarke’s players must now figure out how to progress further.
The manager’s greatest accomplishment has been highlighting the strength of the team as a whole. This is evident in Scotland’s success in a group where Norway, led by Erling Haaland, has fallen behind. In a recent match against Spain, the team secured a valuable victory with Lyndon Dykes from Queens Park Rangers playing at center-forward.
Scotland possesses skilled players, particularly in the wing-back and midfield positions, but they are still missing a standout player in the attacking third. In his own thoughts, Clarke must realize that this will be a challenge as the competition becomes more intense. The number of available players for selection is limited. The injuries of Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney highlight this issue. The absence of Angus Gunn leaves Scotland significantly lacking in the goalkeeper position. A makeshift team will have to complete the remaining qualifying matches.
Scotland are an attractive proposition. Clarke is confident enough in his environment not to ferociously pursue players who may qualify for his squad via bloodlines just because they see Scotland as a viable international platform. Archie Gray and Tino Livramento have been mentioned in recent days.
Elliot Anderson was once seen as Scotland’s potential star player. The midfielder from Newcastle appeared to be ready to join Clarke’s team, but abruptly left training before the trip to Cyprus in September. If Anderson, who has Scottish heritage like Paddington Bear, felt unsure, he should be commended for stepping back instead of being criticized. At only 21 years old, he is still working towards securing a consistent spot on his club team. It is important to give Anderson the freedom to make his own decisions about his future.
Scotland showed interest in Harvey Barnes based on his previous experience. The 25-year-old was considering playing for Scotland until he suffered a major foot injury. If Barnes recovers and rejoins his team, he could potentially aim for the Euros. However, in order for this to be a realistic possibility, Barnes would need to be selected and perform well during the March international friendlies. Ché Adams made the decision to play for Scotland shortly before the delayed Euro 2020 tournament. Adding Barnes to the team would definitely strengthen Scotland’s chances.
The Under-21 team in Scotland has a limited pool of players to choose from. The progress of Ben Doak at Liverpool has not been as fast as expected or desired, likely due to injuries. Doak’s speed and ability to run directly would be a great fit for Scotland’s senior team, but he must regularly play at the first-team level.
Scotland’s previous encounters in Georgia during 2007 and 2015 were hurtful, as they suffered losses while vying for qualification. However, there is no similar pressure in the current situation. Clarke’s main goal is to revive the straightforward winning mentality that has proven successful for him. He will also keep in mind the larger goal of avoiding being mere participants in Germany.