Saturday, February 4, 2023

Steve Clarke hints he will cast net wider in bid to improve Scotland’s fortunes

Scottish FootballNational TeamSteve Clarke hints he will cast net wider in bid to improve Scotland’s fortunes
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Steve Clarke looks set to cast his net beyond his current Scotland squad after failing to stem the tide of goals against his team.

Thursday’s 4-0 defeat in Russia made it four consecutive defeats with the loss of 13 goals since Clarke began his reign with a last-gasp win over Cyprus in June.

The former Kilmarnock manager handed out three debuts in Moscow, to Aberdeen centre-back Michael Devlin, Sheffield United midfielder John Fleck and Dundee United striker Lawrence Shankland, who came off the bench at half-time.

But Scotland were not good enough all over the pitch and Clarke is running out of time to rebuild confidence ahead of the Euro 2020 play-offs in March.

Sunday’s home game against San Marino will be of limited value given the level of opposition – the worst in the world, according the the FIFA rankings.

Clarke will need to make noticeable improvements for next month’s double header against Cyprus and Kazakhstan to ensure Scotland approach their Hampden semi-final in March with confidence.

That could mean bringing in new players.

Clarke told Sky Sports News: “It’s definitely harder than I thought it was going to be but I have been brought up the hard way. You have to tough it out.

“I maybe have to look at the selections and maybe have to look at trying to bring one or two new faces into the squad and see if we can freshen it up because at the moment the current group can’t get the result, can’t get the positivity that we need.

“We have to dust ourselves down, get a result on Sunday at home against San Marino and then two massive games for us in November.”

Centre-backs Declan Gallagher and Stuart Findlay will be hoping to make their debuts against San Marino, while Clarke could have the likes of Kieran Tierney, Scott McKenna and Grant Hanley available to bolster his defensive options next month.

Arsenal defender Tierney, Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack, Hearts forward Steven Naismith and Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths have all been unavailable throughout his reign.

But Clarke’s comments hint that he will look beyond the obvious options. Former England cap Steven Caulker has made it known he is keen to play for Scotland, the native land of one of his grandmothers.

The former Liverpool and QPR defender, whose career has been hampered by mental health and personal problems, is now playing in Turkey after a spell at Dundee ended prematurely last year.

Clarke has also been linked with moves to cap right-backs Todd Kane of QPR and Ryan Fredericks of West Ham, while reports that the Scottish Football Association again failed to persuade Huddersfield striker Karlan Grant to commit to Scotland suggest Clarke is exploring all avenues.

Livingston’s Australian-born striker Lyndon Dykes, who has Scottish parents, has also emerged as a possibility after impressing against both Rangers and Celtic in recent weeks.

Whether it’s players returning from injury or coming from left-field, the man who transformed Kilmarnock’s fortunes with limited work in the transfer market has got to the stage where he feels he is struggling to improve the current team.

However, dropping the likes of Charlie Mulgrew, who failed to stop his man scoring at a corner for the second game running, would leave the team further lacking in experience.

Clarke said in Moscow: “Listen, it was also quite an inexperienced side out there, Liam Palmer making his second appearance, Mikey Devlin a first cap, John Fleck first cap. I feel sorry for those boys because they gave everything.”

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