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CLARKE HOPES SCUPPERED

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STEVE CLARKE’S plea to SPFL bosses to leave a weekend clear to help Scotland’s bid to qualify for the Euro 2021 Championships have been rejected.

The league bosses have ruled out the possibility of a blank Premiership fixture card free ahead of the vital play-off semi final against Israel at Hampden on October 8.

Clarke had asked for the league’s governing body to give his players extra time to prepare for the crucial confrontation as he hoped to guide the nation through to their firsr major finals since the World Cup in Paris in 1998 when Craig Brown was the manager, as Scotzine reported yesterday.

A win against Nir Bitton, Hatem Abd Elhamed would give the Scots the opportunity of a final showdown against either Norway or Serbia away from home a month later.

SPFL secretary Iain Blair issued a statement explaining the “enormous pressure” on the upcoming fixture calendar, which also has to cater for postponed, European, international and Scottish Cup fixtures.

He said: “We’ve been in discussion with the SFA. They understandably want to have the two rounds of matches postponed before the Nations League play-offs in early October and early November.

“If there was any slack at all in the schedule we would obviously be very keen to deliver that. Unfortunately, it’s simply not possible, given the restrictions we are working within.”

But, while the Saturday before the key fixtures will not be cleared, Blair said he would endeavour to ensure that there will be no matches on the Sunday before the international schedule.

He added: “We have committed to liaising with Sky Sports to encourage them to avoid scheduling live matches on the Sunday before the Scotland games, unless that fixture has been shifted to the Sunday because of UEFA Europa League commitments the previous midweek.

“The stress on the SPFL fixture calendar next season is going to be enormous, with a real risk that some clubs will be forced to play four games in eight days, which we always try to avoid. And that’s even before we consider the impact of the Scottish winter and the high risk of cancelled matches due to adverse weather.

“We have already been obliged to cancel the winter break next season because we absolutely needed those extra three potential match dates, but even with that, I think it is going to be tighter than at any time in my 22 years working for the SPFL.”

The Premiership is due to kick off on August 1.

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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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