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CLARKE’S RALLYING CALL

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STEVE CLARKE acknowledges what Scotland need to do to have the fans believing in them again: beat one of international football’s “big boys”.

The Scots boss is rallying his troops for the crucial Euro 2020 qualifying Hampden double-header against Russia tonight and Belgium on Monday.

Clarke’s side are fourth in Group I having won two and lost two of their four matches to date.

In their previous outing in Brussels against the world’s No.1 ranked team, the Scots were turned by three goals although the Scots gaffer was adamant it was “never a 3-0 game”. Romelu Lukaku got the opening goal in first-half stoppage-time and the home side netted a third with virtually the last kick of the ball.

Victory over the Russians would take them level on nine points with the 2018 World Cup hosts and quarter-finalists – albeit on a far inferior goal-difference – a result the former Kilmarnock gaffer reckons would encourage the Scotland supporters.

Clarke, speaking to Sky Sports, said: “We need a win. As a country, it’s been a long time since we turned over one of the so-called big boys.

“Russia, having been in the last eight of the last World Cup, are one of the big teams.

“It’s about time that we as a nation, rather than being on the receiving end, are the team dishing out a result that is deemed to be an upset.

“Hopefully, Friday night can be the case.”

Scotland have not qualified for a tournament since the 1998 World Cup Finals in France and Clarke accepted the sad fact.

He added: “Over a number of years, we haven’t managed to reach a major finals.

“If you don’t reach a major final, the more often it happens, the less people start to believe in it.

“One big result can maybe change the whole mindset of not just the squad, but the whole nation and hopefully it happens very soon.”

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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