Clelland has ‘big boots to fill’ as she stands by to carry goal burden against Portugal

Lana Clelland is expected to lead the attack for Scotland against Portugal
Lana Clelland is expected to lead the attack for Scotland against Portugal
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Former Spartans striker Lana Clelland is likely to carry Scotland’s goalscoring hopes on her slim shoulders in tomorrow’s must-win Euro 2017 game against Portugal in 
Rotterdam.

With Jane Ross ruled out after damaging shoulder ligaments in Wednesday’s 6-0 defeat by England, Clelland is the most obvious replacement as main striker. It’s a huge responsibility on the 24-year-old from Perth given that Ross is Scotland’s second-top scorer of all time behind Julie Fleeting with 50 goals in 107 games.

Clelland, by contrast, has scored just one goal in 16 international games – in a 1-1 draw against Serbia four years ago. However, her record masks the fact she has never played a full 90 minutes for Scotland. Nearly all her appearances have been as a late substitute, and when she did make one start, against South Korea, she was replaced midway through the second half.

Clelland, right, left Spartans to join Italian club Bari, in 2014, but it was only when she moved to UPC Tavagnacco a year later that her game started to flourish. She has learned to speak Italian fluently and has matured as a player and person. When she came on for longer second-half substitute appearances against the Republic of Ireland a fortnight ago and England on Wednesday, she looked sharp, timed her runs to perfection, and came very close to scoring in both games.

More significantly, she ended the Serie A Women season in May as top scorer, with 23 goals from 22 games despite playing for a mid-table side.

“I’ve always felt I’m a natural goalscorer,” she says. “In the last few years I’ve maybe lacked fitness because of injuries, but I’ve really come into my own this year and next season I hope to score even more. I’ve really put in the work and I’m glad it’s starting to show.

“I was happy to get on against England and was just disappointed I couldn’t give more as it was 3-0 when I came on. I’ve grown up so much since moving to Italy. We’ve just signed a Slovenian player, but for two years I was the only non-Italian in the squad and I surprised myself how easily I picked up the language.”

With the onus likely to be on her to score against Portugal with Ross missing, and also Kim Little, who has scored 48 times for Scotland, Clelland added: “These are big numbers of goals and big boots to fill, but I’m confident in my own ability if called upon.”