Steve Clarke urges Scotland to ‘pick up a bit of momentum’ ahead of Euros

By Sports Desk November 08, 2023

Steve Clarke wants Scotland to use their final Euro 2024 qualifiers against Georgia and Norway to regain their momentum ahead of the finals in Germany next summer.

The Scots initially suspected they might need positive results from their last two games in Group A to qualify so organised a warm-weather training camp in Turkey at the start of next week to give themselves the best possible preparation ahead of their penultimate fixture in Tbilisi on Thursday.

However, after a blistering start to their campaign, they sealed their place at the tournament with two games to spare, so their main priority in the upcoming camp is to spark an upturn in results after successive defeats against England, Spain and France.

“We’ll be doing something similar to what we did when we went to Moldova (in 2021, when they had a warm-weather training camp in Spain), so we’ll leave early, on Sunday night after the games, and we’re going to stop off in Turkey and have a couple of days of hopefully warm weather there to break up the journey,” Clarke said at a press conference on Wednesday after naming his squad for the double-header.

“We identified these two games – Georgia away and Norway at home – as crucial games in the qualification process, but credit to the players, they’ve already qualified, so the games are not quite as crucial.

“But when you strip it back, we’ve lost the last three games, so we want to pick up a little bit of momentum going into the tournament next summer, so these two games are very important for us.

“It will be good to come here to finish the campaign with a home game against Norway and hopefully a good performance.

“It will be a chance for the crowd to thank the players and a chance for the players to thank the crowd. It will be a bit of a poor night if we don’t win the game, so let’s make sure we win the game.”

The 2-0 defeat by Spain in Seville saw Scotland relinquish top spot in Group A on goal difference. Spain finish away to Cyprus and at home to Georgia.

“I think to finish top is going to be very difficult,” said Clarke. “As I sit here now, it’s difficult for me to see Spain dropping any points from their last two games.

“We’ll just focus on ourselves and, if we can finish on the same points as Spain and they manage to top the group by an unfortunate slip from Aaron Hickey in the 2-0 defeat by Spain in Seville, we’ll take that.”

Scotland are missing four established starters for this month’s double-header, with goalkeeper Angus Gunn, captain Andrew Robertson, and fellow defenders Kieran Tierney and Aaron Hickey all injured.

Rangers defender John Souttar and Millwall forward Kevin Nisbet are the other notable absentees following their recent fitness issues.

Uncapped duo Josh Doig and Robby McCrorie, both of whom have been in previous camps, have been included, along with Celtic right-back Anthony Ralston.

“This is probably the toughest it’s been in terms of injuries in the last year or so,” said Clarke. “I remember in September last year we had to go to Ukraine in the Nations League with pretty much a shadow squad, but we dug in and got the result required.

“That’s what we’ll do this time. We can talk about the ones who are not here, but I always prefer to talk about the ones that are going to be here, so fingers crossed there are no more injuries before the squad meet up on Sunday.”

With first-choice Gunn missing with an injury he sustained for Norwich against Leeds last month, Motherwell’s Liam Kelly and Hearts’ Zander Clark, both of whom made their international bows in the friendly defeat by France last month, will vie to make their competitive debuts over the next two games.

“Obviously one of them is going to get a chance to play in the games coming up, so it’s a big camp for them,” said Clarke. “They know they have to impress.

“They’ve been in a lot of squads so they understand it and know the expectation around them. Hopefully they train well and are ready to play.”

Clarke included uncapped Verona left-back Doig after he was initially named in Scot Gemmill’s under-21 squad this week.

“Josh is doing well in Serie A, playing pretty regularly for his club,” said Clarke.

“He’s a good, athletic player who gets up and down the line. It will be nice to see how he’s improved and how he fits into the camp since we last saw him last September.”

Clarke insists he has not allowed his attention to turn towards his final 23-man squad for the Euros just yet.

“It won’t be a headache, it will be a difficult choice,” he said. “There’s obviously going to be a lot of people that want to be there.

“For me, it’s about not thinking too far ahead to picking the 23 because as this camp shows, injuries can turn up at any time.

“There’s a long way to go before the final squad is picked. Every game between now and the squad selection for the Euros next summer is a chance for somebody to impress so hopefully they take their chances.”

Related items

  • John Mousinho applauds ‘absolutely incredible’ Portsmouth after promotion John Mousinho applauds ‘absolutely incredible’ Portsmouth after promotion

    John Mousinho hailed Portsmouth’s “remarkable achievement” after the come-from-behind 3-2 win over Barnsley at Fratton Park secured the League One title and promotion to the Championship.

    Pompey looked to be missing their opportunity in front of their own fans when, needing one point to return to the second tier after a 12-year absence, they were 2-1 behind after Devante Cole and John McAtee struck either side of Kusini Yengi’s equaliser.

    But the hosts hit back in the final seven minutes with Colby Bishop scoring from the penalty spot and Conor Shaughnessy heading home the winner.

    Mousinho told BBC Radio Solent Sport: “I think once everything settles down it will sink in properly. I’ve never experienced anything like that, the last 15 minutes, it was absolutely incredible.

    “Even at 2-1 down, to get the momentum and the crowd behind us, I am just so proud of the boys. I’m genuinely just so pleased for everyone connected to the football club. They’ve gone through so much.

    “When we got it back to 3-2 I thought we have played so poor, but found a way to win somehow in a game where we really struggled. It really does sum up the boys.

    “A tough night, tough conditions, but they got the job done. It’s hard for me to sum it up, but I get what’s happened over the last 15 years at the club and how difficult it was, on the brink of liquidation, to come back and have a night like this is incredible to be involved in.

    “To be head coach, it is a privilege. Hopefully we can have a few more nights like this.

    “I never could have imagined this happening this quickly. This was obviously the goal at some point, but didn’t think it would happen with two games to go this season. It is a remarkable achievement. That is a serious effort to be crowned champions ahead of some of the big boys in this league as well.”

    Play-off chasing Barnsley, having lost three of their last four games, are four points above seventh-placed Lincoln.

    Boss Neill Collins told the club’s official website: “There are a lot of positives. But the biggest frustration is that all those positives didn’t add up to what I thought would be a deserved victory.

    “We perform like that, we’ll be fine. We’ll win games. It’s just the fine margins. For me, it’s the fine margins that have gone against us the past four or five games.

    “Tonight again, it’s some of our doing. But that’s what we need to concentrate on. That’s what the Football League is all about.”

  • Darren Moore admits lapse of concentration cost Port Vale Darren Moore admits lapse of concentration cost Port Vale

    Port Vale boss Darren Moore blamed his relegation-threatened side’s dramatic 2-1 home defeat to Wycombe on a lack of concentration at the back.

    Vale’s League One existence now hangs in the balance after a late Nigel Lonwijk strike means they are three points from safety with just two games left.

    Wycombe took the lead in the fourth minute when David Wheeler was first to react after Connor Ripley had saved a close-range header from Sam Vokes.

    Wanderers could have been two ahead just moments later as Wheeler again found himself free with just Ripley to beat, only to see his effort drift wide.

    Vale’s only real effort of the first period fell to Ethan Chislett, whose long-range volley was spectacularly pushed over by Franco Ravizzoli in the Wycombe goal.

    The home side began the second period brightly and were level just two minutes after the restart when Chislett slotted past Ravizzoli after finding himself in acres of space.

    But with Vale pushing for that all-important winner in their battle to beat the drop, it was Lonwijk who popped up at the other end to win it for Wycombe and heap more misery on Moore’s men.

    Moore said: “It was disappointing because you don’t want to lose a game in that manner.

    “I really felt like we were in the ascendancy and if we kept our concentration we could get a chance to win the game, but we fell to a really late goal that absolutely knocked the stuffing out of the boys.

    “We gave ourselves a mountain to climb after conceding that early goal and got back into the game early in the second half through Chislett to really give ourselves momentum and hope.

    “I still felt that a chance was going to drop our way but what I didn’t envisage was our lapse of concentration at the back that has led to their goal.

    “We’ve got two games remaining and we know what to do, we’ve got to dust ourselves down and get ready for another tough game on Saturday.”

    Wycombe claimed a second consecutive away win.

    Boss Matt Bloomfield said: “I’m disappointed we weren’t further ahead if I’m honest. We could have been three-up after 10 minutes and could and should have been out of sight.

    “We knew it was going to be a tough game as Port Vale are fighting for their lives and have got some really good players, so to find an early goal and a late winner, I’m delighted.

    “We needed to start the game on the front foot and the game plan was coming off and it wasn’t until the second half that they managed to break us down, but to find the character to go and get the winner was really pleasing.

    “I stood on the touchline thinking this was a war of attrition and it was tough to get out at times, but we had fresh legs on the bench so I’m really pleased with the performance of the whole squad.”

  • Southampton have changed dynamic of promotion race – Russell Martin Southampton have changed dynamic of promotion race – Russell Martin

    Russell Martin said the Sky Bet Championship automatic promotion race “dynamic” has changed after Southampton’s 3-0 domination of Preston.

    Saints had looked destined for a play-off place after three defeats in four games during February, but three home wins in seven days has them just four points off the top two.

    A Che Adams brace and Stuart Armstrong’s fourth goal of the season sealed the points on Tuesday and Saints boss Martin said: “I think it was a brilliant performance with some really beautiful stuff.

    “It has been a big week for us. It has changed the dynamic. We were written off some point ago but the players have stuck at it and been resilient.

    “We have the opportunity to take the points off teams around us but if we have to take care of the next one against Cardiff and if we don’t then the others become a bit pointless.”

    Adams opened the scoring in the 19th minute when he tapped in Adam Armstrong’s centre for his 100th career goal.

    He doubled his tally by finishing a fine team move with a cool finish before Stuart Armstrong capitalised on a defensive howler to smash in.

    The only taint on the evening was an Achilles injury to goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu in the warm-up that looks to have ended his season.

    Martin, who promoted Alex McCarthy, said: “He has felt something in his Achilles and will have a scan tomorrow. We don’t expect to see him any time soon and we’ll give him all the support he needs.

    “Al has trained so well. He has travelled everywhere and trained like a beast. We’ve seen what Joe (Lumley) can do and has done really well and we wanted to see Al. It was a feeling I had in my gut at the time.”

    But Martin added on the performance of Adams, who he subbed off before he could score a hat-trick: “He has just threatened to beat me up out there! We had a hug and a laugh and he understands why I had to take him off.

    “He looks like he is going to score all the time at the moment.”

    Preston had the third lowest expected goals of the Championship season with 0.07 and manager Ryan Lowe said: “The be all and end all was the first half has cost us. The game plan that we set out to do in the first half was nowhere near.

    “The game was probably over at half-time at 3-0. You can’t give a team like Southampton chances like that because they’re a fantastic team.

    “The game plan was to try and nullify their strengths and capitalise on their weaknesses and we didn’t really do either.

    “They could end up going up automatically, if not they’re going to be a real force in the play-offs.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.