Belfast Telegraph

Clarke is eager for Robertson's success to rub off on Scotland

Big debut: Steve Clarke can’t wait for his first match as boss
Big debut: Steve Clarke can’t wait for his first match as boss

By Ronnie Esplin

Steve Clarke is hoping Scotland benefit from the success of Champions League winner Andy Robertson against Cyprus tonight.

The Liverpool left-back arrived late at the Scotland camp during the week to a round of applause from the squad following the Reds' 2-0 win over Tottenham in the final in Madrid.

Ahead of his first game in charge of the national team, a 2020 European Championship qualifier at Hampden Park, Clarke is hoping the positivity and confidence of the Scotland captain, along with other successes in his squad, can rub off on the rest of the players.

Speaking at the national stadium, Clarke said: "The players received him with a warm round of applause when he walked into the dining room, when we were all sitting having our dinner.

"It was great to have him there. Obviously, a massive achievement for Andy and hopefully the lads can feed off that.

"There has been a few in the group who had successful seasons, the Celtic lads, Kenny McLean (Norwich), John McGinn (Aston Villa) have all finished the season feeling good about themselves.

"Hopefully we can get that into the whole squad and carry that forward as a group of players.

"So we have a lot in the group who have had a positive end to the season and hopefully when we get the team on the pitch on Saturday night we can continue that positivity."

Clarke is preparing for the first game of a double-header which includes a trip to group favourites Belgium in Brussels on Tuesday.

The Scots began their campaign with a shock 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan and a 2-0 win in San Marino, which led to the departure of Alex McLeish and the former Kilmarnock boss stepping in as manager.

"It has been very enjoyable," said the ex-Scotland defender.

"Nice to be on the training pitch. I have a very receptive group of players and hopefully they take the messages and details we have tried to give them.

"We have given them the basics and if you get the basics right and don't clutter the players too much with science and allow them to express themselves, hopefully that will be good enough to get three points.

"Obviously, I would have liked another 150 training sessions, a bit more repetition, but I think I have an intelligent bunch of players and hopefully you see those results on Saturday night.

"When I came in I was open minded about the starting group with the exception of three or four players. As the week has gone on I have got closer and closer, I know in my mind the starting XI.

"Later on tonight when we have another team meeting the players will know the starting XI as well."

Clarke is "very much" looking forward to his first game as boss of Scotland but is hoping a proud occasion does not become too emotional.

The former West Brom and Reading manager said: "I said before about it being the pinnacle of my career and standing out there in front of the supporters as manager of the national team will be an emotional occasion for me.

"Hopefully I don't burst into tears. I am proud to be the manager of the national team but now the work starts.

"The honeymoon period will be over after the game because that's the way it is in football. You start to get judged on results and performances but I am ready for that."

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