Clarke confident Scotland ready for Germany

Clarke confident Scotland ready for Germany

STEVE CLARKE is confident that Scotland will be back on top form when they face Germany in their blockbuster Euro 2024 showdown on Friday night.

The Scots have been largely unimpressive in both of their warm-up games, with a    2-0 win over minnows Gibraltar followed by a 2-2 draw with Finland.

Those results are part of a run which sees Scotland head into the Euros with just one win in their past NINE matches.

The build-up to the tournament has also been hampered by a series of injuries, with Scotland flying over to their training base in Germany today.

But Clarke insists the prospect of facing the hosts in Munich will get the competitive juices flowing once again.

Insisting that it’s now full steam ahead, the Scotland boss said: ‘Yeah, 100 per cent. The competitive edge will be back. The desire to not lose.

Steve Clarke believes supporters will see an improved Scotland when the Euros kick off

Callum McGregor (No8) and Grant Hanley are left in disbelief as Scotland let a two-goal lead slip

Callum McGregor (No8) and Grant Hanley are left in disbelief as Scotland let a two-goal lead slip

‘We will be full-on 100 per cent. I’m not saying we went out against Finland to try and lose, but you go out and it (injuries) is always in the back of your mind.

‘Especially with Lyndon Dykes. I think what happened with Lyndon spooked them a little bit.

‘Now that they’re there, they’re in the competition, it’s full steam ahead.’

Scotland held a two-goal lead against Finland on Friday night, only to be pegged back to 2-2. It wasn’t quite the rousing send-off they had hoped for at Hampden, but Clarke was determined to take the positives.

Lawrence Shankland got on the scoresheet, with Anthony Ralston also putting in a decent performance at right wing-back.

Asked what the goal might do for Shankland’s confidence, Clarke said: ‘Quite a lot I think, he gave me a big smile when he came off.

‘It’s important because, listen, strikers live on goals. Lawrence was a little bit frustrated after the Gibraltar game because any chances that fell didn’t fall to him. But he kept getting in there tonight and he eventually got his head on one. Strikers live on goals.

‘Anthony Ralston was good. I thought he started the game quite safe. He plays for a club side who pass the ball a lot, so I imagine his training sessions will be pretty much possession-based.

‘He is good on the ball, keeps the ball, doesn’t give it away in dangerous areas. He started to get in the right positions, put a few good decent crosses into the box.’

It was also a big night for skipper Andy Robertson, who became Scotland’s most capped captain.

Wearing the armband for the 49th time, Robertson marked the occasion in style by laying on two assists for both Scotland goals.

But Craig Gordon's rash challenge on Galvez gave the Finns the chance to level from the spot

But Craig Gordon’s rash challenge on Galvez gave the Finns the chance to level from the spot 

‘He didn’t get a special shirt. He’s definitely not finished,’ said Clarke (right, with Shankland). ‘That’s 49 games as captain now and that’s now the record. You look at Andy and think: ‘Come on Andy, there are a few more to come.”

‘He has been great for me. He came in and got the captaincy at a really young age but has really grown into the role. He’s a proper leader.

‘Tommy Conway got a strip signed with No 1 (for his first cap) on it and there was one with 50 on it for Grant Hanley and 75 for Craig Gordon.

‘These things come from the captain. It’s his idea, it’s his thoughts going into this saying: ‘This is what we’re about.”

‘Let’s keep the group right and make sure we are always giving these little mementos.

‘They get a silver medal for 25 caps and a gold medal for 50. I don’t know what they get for 75 and it always takes about a month before they actually get those medals, so it’s nice on the night to actually give something out and that’s the thinking behind that.

‘The performance from Andy, he was always on the front foot. He’s a proper captain for me.’

Meanwhile, Gordon last night refused to rule out continuing his Scotland career as he reflected on an emotional night at Hampden that saw him complete his long road back from a horrific double leg break.

The 41-year-old, who conceded two goals to Finland after coming on as a 69th-minute substitute, spent time on the pitch with his family afterwards as he completed the final goal he set himself after suffering the injury in December 2022.

The Hearts stopper made his first-team return earlier this year and put himself in contention for a place in Clarke’s plans for Germany, but was told before Friday’s fixture that he would be one of the two names dropped from the preliminary Euros squad.

Writing on Instagram, Gordon said: ‘When I was in the initial stages of my recovery I set myself four goals. The first was to be out of pain. The seriousness of the break made for complications and further procedures. I went through a lot of pain and wanted to be able to live life without it. I did that.

‘The second thing I wanted to achieve was to be back on my feet and able to run around the garden and play football with my children. We’ve done that. Many, many times and they won’t let me stop now.

Clarke heads back to the drawing board as Scotland prepare to open the Euros against hosts Germany

Clarke heads back to the drawing board as Scotland prepare to open the Euros against hosts Germany 

‘The third goal I had was to play for Hearts again. This meant a lot to me. I did that competitively in January, having played my first friendly in November, 10 months after I broke my leg. It was a long wait, but I was ready to play the rest of the season.

‘The last thing I hoped to do was to make the Scotland squad again. And to put myself in a position to be at the Euros. Coming into the provisional squad, I knew I hadn’t got the games I needed so I trained harder, I trained well and felt, and still feel, very good. I am, of course, so disappointed not to be there.

‘Playing again for Scotland last night meant I did what I set out to do. And while it wasn’t in the way I wanted, I could never turn down the opportunity to play at Hampden again. Something I have had the honour of doing for over 20 years. The circumstances were tough, it was an extremely emotional night for my family and I. But I’m grateful I got that opportunity. To become the oldest player to play for Scotland, it’s a special record.

‘Given how long I’ve been doing this, I’ve experienced so much and I, probably more than others, know all too well, that things don’t always go your way. Decisions go against you. Last night, of all nights, I wished they didn’t but if a nervous 21-year-old could have seen that so many years on, through some big challenges, I’d be there at 41 years old, I think I’d be very happy with that.’

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