Tomorrow’s match against Israel has been supplied with the pre-match drama it was always feared might occur during the countdown to such a significant occasion.
As well as Armstrong, who must self-isolate for ten days as of yesterday, Kieran Tierney and Ryan Christie - identified as close contacts of the Southampton midfielder during recent days at the Scotland camp in Edinburgh - must self-isolate for 14 days.
They, too, will be absent from the games against Israel, Slovakia and Czech Republic, with the first of these, a Euro 2020 play-off semi-final, being the critical encounter.
Armstrong, who has started Southampton’s last three matches, might well have featured tomorrow, if not from the start, then very possibly as substitute.
Tierney and Christie were almost certain to be included in the first XI. While the first instinct is concern for Armstrong’s health, the news has also handed Clarke a huge setback in terms of his preparations for Scotland’s biggest game in over a decade.
The build-up has already been hampered by the number of players involved in games on Sunday. There were only eight players training at Oriam on Monday.
Clarke has had only two full training sessions ahead of tomorrow’s match, with today’s final preparations having been presumably disrupted by the morning’s positive test result from Armstrong. Clarke will have been sent back to the drawing board. His likely formation of three-at-the-back is predicated on Tierney’s presence.
The argument from those who questioned the sense in carrying on with international football at a time when a pandemic is not only present within society, but very clearly undergoing a second wave, has been reinforced.
It does seem a ripe discussion at this juncture, with Celtic’s Odsonne Edouard also having tested positive while with France Under 21s.
Scotland will play in front of no fans and now must cope without three of their best players. It is a chaotic way to head into such an important match. At least it’s not as extreme as what the Czech Republic faced before hosting Scotland last month.
They were forced to pick an entirely new squad and call up willing deputies from various top-flight clubs, few of whom had international experience. It’s not reached this point, yet.
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