Scotland: Steve Clarke discusses Euro 2024 qualification, Scott McTominay & squad selection dilemas for Germany | Football News


Steve Clarke has been reflecting on an incredible 12 months as Scotland secured their automatic qualification for Euro 2024.

They will open next summer’s tournament against host nation Germany after qualifying for the tournament with two games to spare.

Attention now turns to squad selection and the hopes Scotland can make an impact in Group A, where they will also face Hungary and Switzerland.

Clarke sat down with Sky Sports to reflect on an incredible qualifying campaign, Scott McTominay’s impact, his squad selection issues and much more…

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Clarke reflects on sealing back-to-back European Championships and the celebrations after qualifying for Germany

How would you review the year?

Pretty decent. I think if you’re a Scotland fan, you’ve had a good year. A lot of good matches, good memories and obviously qualification for another major tournament which is fantastic.

It looked like a tough qualifying group for Scotland, what were you thinking at the start of the campaign?

We knew that it would be a tough group. The way the fixtures fell, with three home games out of the first four fixtures, we knew the first half of the group was when we had to get the majority of the points.

It couldn’t have started in a better way.

I was always pretty confident that we could get qualification but I think how we got it and the way we started the group was exceptional.

Is there one key game, or one key moment you thought this is definitely going to happen?

Scotland stunned Spain at Hampden Park
Scotland stunned Spain at Hampden Park

The night we beat Spain at Hampden if I’m being honest.

When we went into that camp I spent the first four or five days stressing to the players how important it was that we didn’t drop points to Cyprus.

You’ve always got that little Scottish psyche, that Scottish mentality that normally we mess up in a game where we shouldn’t.

So we went into that and we concentrated a lot on attacking play when we were playing Cyprus. I think watching the game back now I maybe put too much fear into the players because they played a little bit like it was a game they were afraid to lose instead of a game that we should go and win. We did win it eventually and quite comfortably.

On the back of that was the night at Hampden against Spain where when we produced the performance that we did and got the result that we did, I had a feeling then that we would qualify.

How would you describe the night Scotland qualified given that you weren’t playing a game?

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - NOVEMBER 19: The scoreboard message at full time displays 'We're off to Germany' as Scotland qualify for Euro 2024 during a UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifier between Scotland and Norway at Hampden Park, on November 19, 2023, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

It was strange.

We went to Seville to play Spain and I was confident we would get the result we needed. I could feel in the players that they were on it, they were focused and knew what they were going there to do.

We played ever so well on the night but, again, football circumstances go against you and the marginal VAR decision probably changed the course of that game.

When you get a decision like that it’s almost like Spain concede and then equalise straight away with that decision.

It ended up a defeat but it was a good performance. We were a little bit sad that we didn’t get to do the qualification on the pitch then you go back to the team hotel and you’re waiting on the next friendly game away to France which was always going to be a tough game.

You’re sitting in the hotel watching another game that was going to have a massive bearing on whether we qualified or not. It was a strange experience to sit there and watch it.

How did you celebrate?

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Scotland and Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor reveals how the national team secured a night out after Euro 2024 qualification and how negotiations went with boss Steve Clarke

Everyone went to town. That’s why we are successful. Even the old guy was in the nightclub at midnight.

I think I was one of the first ones away though, as I should be!

I didn’t make the chip shop, I went straight back to the hotel. Off to sleep and try and prepare for France.

Did you expect Scott McTominay to get as many goals and assists?

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Clarke reflects on Scott McTominay’s impact for Scotland and believes his form with the national team helped the midfielder seal his spot back in Manchester United’s starting XI

I’d be lying if I said I’d expected it, but I’d had a chat with Scott before the campaign started. I tweaked his position a little bit, I allowed him a little bit more freedom to get forward on the pitch and suddenly he was scoring goals.

It was great because we are a team who rely quite a lot on goals from other positions.

A lot of the strikers that I play, Lyndon Dykes, Che Adams, whoever it is upfront, whichever one it is, always seem to get a little bit of stick because they don’t get enough goals.

The way we play, the way the team is structured, is for that striker to help the midfield boys to score goals. As long as Scott’s chipping in, John McGinn chips in with goals, Callum McGregor has a couple for us.

As long as those boys are scoring from midfield we don’t really care about who gets the goals as long as we get them. It was good for Scott, he had a really good campaign.

How easy is it for you to forget about club form when players join up for the latest camp?

McTominay scored seven goals in Scotland’s qualifying campaign

I think what we try and do is encourage them to come to us and just be what they are, be themselves.

If you take Scott McTominay as an example, he was struggling to get into the Manchester United team and when he came away with us it was a release for him to come and play for Scotland because he knew he was going to play, he knew he was a valued member of the team. Then he goes out there and he does what he does.

I think his performances for Scotland probably turned a few heads at Manchester United, and credit to Scott he’s got himself back in the United team as the first pick.

If that’s the kind thing the national team can help you to do then that’s great for everybody to come away and know that maybe they’re not playing week in and week out at their club, but they know that good performances for their national team can maybe change the way people think about it.

Are you actively talking to players who could maybe play for other nations?

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Clarke says he is ‘open-minded’ on who could make his 23-man Scotland squad for Euro 2024 and explains how he will deal with the worry of potential injuries

No at the moment I would say I’m not active in talking to other players. Those things tend to work themselves out without too much involvement from me.

Does there have to be a willingness?

There has to be a willingness on both sides and that’s the way it’s always going to move forward.

At the moment there’s not a lot of movement on players that are outside the squad at the moment coming into the squad.

Elliot Anderson was called up to the Scotland squad but withdrew before the games in September
Newcastle’s Elliot Anderson was called up to the Scotland squad but withdrew before the games in September

I’m delighted with the squad that I’ve got and it’s going to be difficult even from the pool of players I’m working with just now to pick 23 for next summer so that’s all I’m focusing on, looking to pick a good 23-man squad that will go to Germany next year and will do our country proud.

You’ve got this group that have been involved quite regularly, do you see any younger players potentially breaking in?

I think with six months to go before you actually name the squad you have to be open-minded, so I’m open-minded.

If you told me now I had to go with the 23 that you would say would be the regular 23 you pick then I’d be delighted to do that as well.

How worrying or how difficult is it as an international manager when you see players getting injured? Do you need a bit of luck with now between now and the Euros?

Scotland's Andrew Robertson leaves the pitch holding his arm following a collision with Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon during the Euro 2024 qualifier
Scotland captain Andrew Robertson injured his shoulder

You’re always going to need luck.

I think the law of average says that any international team going into a tournament will probably lose one or two players before they get to that tournament through injury.

Going into the last Euros we lost Ryan Jack and Kenny McLean which would have been two picks in the squad.

We lost them through injury and between now and May when I name the squad there’s going be a lot of injuries.

Scotland's Kenny McLean missed Euro 2020
Scotland’s Kenny McLean missed Euro 2020

Hopefully not too many serious ones, but even going into the later stages of the season you know that a twisted ankle or a tweaked knee could put a player out of the tournament so you’ve always got that worry at the back of your mind.

There isn’t a lot I can do about it just now so I’ll try not to worry about it too much. I’ll maybe think about it come April, May.

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