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‘BIG MAN HAS TO KEEP ON BELIEVING,’ CLARKE SUPPORTS OLI

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STEVE CLARKE will support misfiring Scotland striker Oli McBurnie who failed to convert two excellent chances in the 1-0 loss to Slovakia in Trnava yesterday.

The £20million Sheffield United frontman was presented with two opportunities in the first-half of the UEFA Nations encounter – and blew them both.

McBurnie has not scored for the Scots in 14 games, excluding his penalty-kick in the 5-4 shoot-out victory over Serbia in Belgrade last week that earned the country a place in the Euro Championships next summer, their first appearance in a major finals since the World Cup in France in 1998.

Clarke’s side’s nine-game unbeaten run came to an end and now they face having to win in Israel on Wednesday to clinch top spot and a World Cup play-off.
McBurnie, who replaced the suspended Lyndon Dykes, failed once more to inspire as he struggled to find his goalscoring touch.

However, international gaffer Clarke, speaking in the Daily Record, said: “Listen, the big man just has to keep believing.

“He just needs to keep working as hard as he did in this game and the goals will come.

“I can’t speak about criticism he’s getting on social media, but I can tell you he’s got the support of everyone in the camp.

“And he knows that. A goal would change things for any forward who is on a run of matches without goals.

“If he could get one sooner rather than later that would be better for him. But he’s got plenty of support from inside the camp.

“The squad is tight-knit – you don’t go on the run we were on without that – and everyone is together. We win together and we lose together and unfortunately this was a loss.”

Clarke added: “We lost the game because of a little bit of luck that went against us. But, in all fairness, I don’t think we can grumble too much about luck.

“We have had a little bit of luck on our side in recent times.

“But when you look at the changes and how everyone did well that’s great for Scotland as a nation.

“Think about where we were the last time we lost.

“When you look at the 4-0 defeat to Russia and think about how everyone was feeling at that time, it’s a huge difference.

“We’ve come a long way and we now have a squad of players who are together.

“They want to do well for their country and everyone can see the quality that we’ve got, when we can make eight changes and still be very competitive.”

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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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