Steve Clarke in 'no one can do what he does' lament about striker as he gives Ben Doak debut hint

Scotland manager will spend time assessing options after Dykes withdrawal

Steve Clarke will take time assessing his options as he considers replacing Lyndon Dykes although the Scotland manager stressed the futility in trying to identify someone able to emulate the stricken striker.

There was little point Clarke trying to hide his anguish at Dykes’ withdrawal from Scotland’s currently 27 player-strong Euro 2024 squad. The striker injured his ankle in training in Glasgow on Friday after slipping in what the manager described as an innocuous incident.

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“It was quite near the end of the session as well, which always seems to hurt a little bit more,” reported Clarke. “We just stopped the session after that, there was no point in carrying on. It was just the way he landed on his ankle. That was it. No connection with any player. He was trying to get on the end of a cross and it was just the way he landed.”

Lyndon Dykes in training at Lesser Hampden last week, before his injury (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)Lyndon Dykes in training at Lesser Hampden last week, before his injury (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Lyndon Dykes in training at Lesser Hampden last week, before his injury (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

There could be an argument made that Dykes might be the last player Clarke would select if there had to be one to leave the squad. Others have those who are obvious stand-ins – Kieran Tierney for Andy Robertson at left-back, for example, if the skipper was injured. Clarke also has ready-made replacements at centre-half and in midfield too, Scotland’s strongest department. But no one can offer Dykes’ brand of physicality and athleticism or be as commanding in the air.

Clarke certainly emphasised Dykes’ uniqueness at Estadio Algarve tonight as a depleted Scotland arrived for tomorrow’s first pre-tournament warm-up game against Gibraltar, ranked 203 in the world. As well as Dykes, the trio of John Souttar, Scott McTominay and Stuart Armstrong won’t be involved as they continue managing knocks.

Che Adams and Lawrence Shankland are Scotland’s reduced options in attack, with Clarke even mentioning that Ben Doak, Liverpool’s teenage forward who was a surprise call-up last month, might get “some minutes off the bench” in what would be his senior international debut. Clarke previously suggested that Doak would more likely make his bow against Finland in Friday’s send-off at Hampden.

Whoever plays will struggle to offer what Australia-born Dykes has consistently produced since agreeing to throw in his international lot with Scotland nearly four years ago.

“Nobody replicates what Lyndon brings,” said Clarke. “Lyndon brings what he does, what his qualities are. One of the best phone calls I have ever made as the head coach of Scotland was to Lyndon, right at the very start when he had the option of Scotland or Australia. Since then we have had a great relationship. Lyndon is devastated that he is not going but I am really disappointed myself that he is not going.”

The manager explained why there has been no replacement announced to date. “The reason is taking a little bit of time is so I can think about everything, the whole picture,” he said. “The 21s is an area where we will look, for sure, but there are other options out there.”

Clarke could turn to Bristol City striker Tommy Conway, who’s currently with the Under 21s party for games against Turkey and Austria. Alternatively, Clarke could look at the likes of Southampton’s Ross Stewart, Ryan Hardie of Plymouth Argyle and even the 16 times-capped Oli McBurnie, although he missed the end of last season for Sheffield United due to a groin injury.

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Whatever happens, Clarke cautioned against expecting even more from Doak, who has been included in the squad for experience as much as anything. “He has been out for four-and-a-half months so let’s not put too much on Ben,” he said. “He has trained for a couple of days – he didn’t train today just as part of his return to play, this was a day off his feet. He will be available tomorrow, maybe some minutes off the bench. But let’s keep Ben in the right place. Let’s not over hype or over push him. Let’s do it properly.”

Those pushing for a place tomorrow include Liam Cooper, who has played infrequently for Leeds United this season, and Anthony Ralston, who has been promoted to pole position for right wing-back in the absence of injured pair Aaron Hickey and Nathan Patterson.

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