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CLARKE’S ROLE IN CELTIC GUESSING GAME

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STEVE CLARKE insists he is looking forward to leading Scotland in the Euro 2020 Finals in June.

But the Scotland boss also admits he “could be elsewhere in the summer” as he continues to be linked with the Celtic managerial vacancy.

Clarke is just one of the names put forward as Neil Lennon’s successor while John Kennedy takes charge of the team in an interim capacity until the end of a wretched season for the Parkhead club.

The international gaffer faced the media yesterday after announcing his squad for the World Cup qualifying triple-header against Austria, who visit Hampden a week tomorrow, Israel and the Faroe Islands.

But the future of the former Reading, West Brom and Kilmarnock chief came into focus, despite admissions of being delighted to still be in charge of his nation when the World Cup comes around in Qatar next year.

I’M IN CHARGE…Steve Clarke takes a Scotland training session.

Intriguingly, Clarke said: “I don’t think it’s my job to knock anything on the head because I’m the Scotland manager. I told you on the steps in Serbia after the game and straight to your faces that I’d be here for Euro 2020. I said I would still be the manager of Scotland.

“If you can tell me that I’ll still be the manager of Scotland come December 2022 in Qatar, I’ll be delighted with that, as well.

“People can speculate all they want, but it’s not my job to get involved in speculation. I can’t knock anything on the head.

“Why would anybody say they don’t want anything? Why would I do that? I could be somewhere else in the summer, I don’t know what’s going to happen.

“Did you know this time last year that we were going to be stuck in the house all this time by a pandemic? Nobody knows what’s going to happen, so I don’t think it’s fair that you always say I’ve got to knock it on the head. I didn’t start the speculation.

“I’m delighted and proud to be the manager of Scotland.”

How did the international manager react to the persistent Celtic stories? Clarke added: “Flattery comes because my players have been fantastic, my staff have been fantastic, and we’ve had a little bit of success. Without the success you don’t get the speculation. That’s the way I see it.”

OUT IN THE COLD…Leigh Griffiths, in action against Albania in October 2018, has been overlooked for the World Cup squad.

The major surprise in the boss’ pool of players was the inclusion of Southampton striker Che Adams, 24, who has defected from England after representing the country of his birth at Under-20 level. However, he qualifies to play for Scotland through his grandparents and the Hampden chief had no hesitation in calling him up.

However, that is bad news for Celtic’s frontman Leigh Griffiths who has paid a heavy price for his lack of goals and game time at the Hoops.

The 30-year-old frontman has netted a mere seven goals in 25 appearances while his club team-mate David Turnbull has also been overlooked.

The impressive youngster, who arrived in a £2.25million switch from Motherwell in the summer, has scored eight goals since coming into the team against Lille in December when he claimed the winner in the side’s solitary victory in Europa League Group H.

However, there is a place for Hoops centre-back Jack Hendry, who is enjoyed an impressive loan season at Belgian outfit KV Oostende.

Scotland squad:

Goalkeepers: Gordon, Marshall, McLaughlin

Defenders: Considine, Gallagher, Hanley, Hendry, McKenna, O’Donnell, Palmer, Robertson, Taylor, Tierney

Midfielders: Armstrong, Christie, Fleck, Jack, McGinn, McGregor, McLean, McTominay

Forwards: Adams, Dykes, Fraser, McBurnie, Nisbet

 

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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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