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CLARKE’S CHALLENGE TO SCOTS

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SCOTLAND boss Steve Clarke has urged all TWENTY-THREE of his players to stake their claim for a place for March’s Euro 2020 play-offs.

The international gaffer has been hit by a spate of call-offs as he prepares his nation for the Euro double-header against Cyprus in Nicosia this afternoon and Kazakhstan at Hampden on Tuesday night.

The games are meaningless in regards qualification from the group with Belgium and Russia, with home and away wins over Scotland, easing through to next summer’s Finals.

However, there is still a chance of making the country’s first major tournament since the World Cup in France in 1998 when Craig Brown was in charge.

Clarke was hit by a succession of withdrawals with skipper Andy Robertson, Manchester United’s Scott McTominay and Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser among them.

The Scots supremo is now giving the opportunity for the players who are with him for the next two matches to impress ahead of next year’s play-off showdowns.

Clarke, speaking to Sky Sports News, said: “When you name the squad and get the call-offs, it’s frustrating, but I learnt quickly in this job, you have to move on.

“We have 23 players here who want to be here, they want to be part of what we’re doing and I concentrate on those 23.

“We’ve got two games before the March play-offs, so anybody who is here in camp has a great chance to catch my attention and make sure they are in the squad in March.

“We spoke after the San Marino game about trying to build on the positivity we built after that group of games, so coming into this one we will try to continue that.

“Cyprus are a difficult opponent here, as will Kazakhstan at home. They are two games I believe we have to perform well in to take good momentum into March.

“We have a definite target in the group to finish third and the qualifying games to give us a second opportunity to get to Euro 2020.”

Clarke refused to confirm who would captain Scotland in the absence of Liverpool defender Robertson who called off with an ankle knock.

He added: “I have always thought as a manager and even as a player that everybody in the dressing room should be a leader, everyone should try and take on part of the role of captain.

“It’s not something that should just be down to one person. You want as many leaders and positive people in the camp as you can get and that’s what we are trying to build here.”

 

 

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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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