The John McGinn miss Steve Clarke still can't explain as Scotland manager reflects on year and 2022 ambitions

Steve Clarke insists Euro 2020 was positive for his Scotland squad – despite three defeats and just one goal scored – but he still can’t work out how John McGinn didn’t add another.

Scotland Manager Steve Clarke during a Euro 2020 match between Croatia and Scotland at Hampden Park, on June 22, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Scotland Manager Steve Clarke during a Euro 2020 match between Croatia and Scotland at Hampden Park, on June 22, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

The tournament – Scotland’s first in 23 years – was the stand-out memory for the national team manager when he reflected on 2021, even if it didn’t go quite the way he hoped.

A commendable draw against eventual finalists England was sandwiched between two deflating home defeats by Czech Republic and Croatia that burst the nation-wide excitement bubble, but it could have been different had McGinn made contact with Stuart Armstrong’s cross – and not goalkeeper Dominik Livaković.

Sign up to our Football newsletter

"We had a fantastic chance of the back-post and John to this day still can't tell me why he went for it in the manner that he did. He’ll tell you he should have scored and suddenly if you go one-up games can change. But it didn't, that's football. Then Modric did what Modric can do.

"The tournament didn't quite work out the way we wanted, but in terms of development and progress it was massive and brought us together.”

However a couple of epic nights at Hampden righted the record and the Tartan Army can look forward to a World Cup qualifying play-off with Ukraine in March.

"I always felt the tournament would make us better. It didn't look that way when we went to Denmark – it was my most difficult week in terms of preparation with injuries, call-offs and Covid,” he told Scotland’s Youtube channel. "Even in that, where we got criticised, there were a lot of good things we carried into the last six games of [qualifying] tournament.”

He added: “It feels as though the players and crowd have come together again after a number of years where that maybe wasn’t the case.”

Scotland's John McGinn goes close with a second half chance during a Euro 2020 match between Croatia and Scotland at Hampden Park, on June 22, 2021, in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

Now Clarke wants a selection headache in March, with more options to consider.

“I just hope all the players play well for their clubs, stay in form, don’t get injured. Between beating Serbia and the Euros we lost Kenny McLean and Ryan Jack.

“We have increased the depth and quality. I want them all available so I have a really difficult task to pick a squad that can hopefully win two more matches and make Qatar 2022.”

Get a year of unlimited access to all The Scotsman's sport coverage without the need for a full subscription. Expert analysis of the biggest games, exclusive interviews, live blogs, transfer news and 70 per cent fewer ads on Scotsman.com - all for less than £1 a week. Subscribe to us today

Scotland head coach Steve Clarke (right) during the FIFA World Cup Qualifier between Denmark and Scotland at the Parken Stadium, on September 01, 2021, in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.