Alan Pattullo: Lots to ponder for Scotland manager Steve Clarke but it seems he has already decided on one potential recruit’s Euro 2020 fate

Remember Belgrade? How could we forget? It was only 121 days ago for a start. Four measly months since one of the greatest occasions in recent Scottish football history.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke has much to ponder ahead of squad announcement next week (Photo by Seffi Magriso / SNS Group)
Scotland manager Steve Clarke has much to ponder ahead of squad announcement next week (Photo by Seffi Magriso / SNS Group)

It was the night when the familiar dread of here we go again became, simply, here we go. And yet. And yet. For Steve Clarke who will spend this weekend mulling over his squad options for three World Cup qualifiers later this month, it must already feel like another lifetime ago. The manager names his first squad since that glory night against Serbia on Tuesday. It will contain many indicators towards his thinking ahead of this summer.

Fortunately, no-one can take Scotland’s Euro 2020 spot away from them now. However, even at this late stage, it’s not confirmed where the games will take place and whether anyone will be permitted inside stadiums to watch. Something else is proving slightly concerning – the nearer we get to this long-awaited tournament the less convincing many Scotland players are looking.

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What’s happened to this merry Conga line of brothers? Yes, sir, they can boogie. They can also waltz right off a cliff when it comes to form. It was bad enough that the hangovers seemed to hamper Scotland in their two subsequent games against Slovakia and Israel. But the majority of the players who featured on that epic night are performing like they are still suffering from the shakes.

Former Dundee defender Steven Caulker is now starring in Turkey with Alanyaspor. He has been linked with a Scotland call up.
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What is it they put in the beer in Belgrade? Ryan Christie and Callum McGregor are currently a shadow of the players they were in the first half of the year. Lydon Dykes has only scored twice since that night. Oli McBurnie was not everyone’s cup of tea at the time and has since scored just once for Sheffield United.

Even the undisputed hero of the hour against Serbia is having his place questioned. Allan McGregor’s stunning last minute save against Slavia Prague on Thursday night has been compared to Gordon Banks’ stop in 1970 against Brazil. Clarke is being urged to sound out the Rangers goalkeeper about the possibility of coming out of international retirement to challenge for the currently injured David Marshall’s spot.

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The ever-loyal Clarke is likely to remain unmoved by such appeals. If there’s a surprise inclusion, it could be former Dundee United playmaker Ryan Gauld, who has been impressing for Farense in Portugal.

Even the rare instance where one of his mainstays is faring well is presenting Clarke with a dilemma. Scott McTominay has settled into right centre-half for Scotland but this is not how he is being deployed by Manchester United, where he’s excelling as a box-to-box midfielder.

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Clarke won’t surely clip McTominay's wings by playing him in defence, which means he’s light again in that most troublesome of areas – centre-half. And, specifically, right centre-half.

Clarke seems reluctant to pursue one option at his disposal. Steven Caulker has let it be known that he’s prepared to switch nationality from England to Scotland. However, it’s understood the right-footed centre-half, now earning rave reviews for Alanyaspor in Turkey, has not been contacted by the SFA to date.

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It’s now unlikely the necessary paperwork would be completed in time for him to appear at Euro 2020, and certainly not for the upcoming games against Austria, Israel and the Faroe Isles.

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