'I'm the lucky guy' - Steve Clarke on his pride and sense of good fortune as he prepares to lead Scotland into the Euro 2020 finals

Steve Clarke isn’t a man given to overt displays of emotion but there was no disguising his sense of gratification when he announced his Scotland squad for Euro 2020.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke with his assistants Steven Reid (left) and John Carver (right). (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The 57-year-old is very much counting his blessings as he prepares to become only the seventh man to lead the national team into a major tournament finals since 1974.

Following in the footsteps of Willie Ormond, Ally MacLeod, Jock Stein, Alex Ferguson, Andy Roxburgh and Craig Brown is an achievement Clarke cherishes as Scotland get ready to end 23 years in the international wilderness.

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“I have a lot of pride as I sit here talking about the tournament in the summer,” reflected Clarke.

Scott McTominay, pictured celebrating after Scotland's Euro 2020 play-off win in Serbia in November, will join Steve Clarke's squad after Manchester United's Europa League Final against Villarreal on Wednesday. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

“Because I’m the lucky guy, the lucky head coach, who has finally managed to get us to a finals.

“The reason I came to the national team was to try and qualify us for a major tournament. With the help of my players and coaching staff, we have managed to do that. That’s fantastic.

“I will be proud that I am the guy that leads the team into the tournament.

“But, listen, I do my bit but when the lads go to the pitch they are the ones who really get you over the line. My job is to make sure they are in good shape, they are well organised.

Celtic winger James Forrest's return to fitness is a major boost for Scotland manager Steve Clarke ahead of the Euro 2020 finals. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

“I also look forward to the tournament because it’s not your usual two training sessions and then squeezing three games into ten days. I will get a bit of time with the players on the grass where we can look to improve as a squad, we can look to tidy up one or two things I think we can do better within our system.

“I mentioned in March when we played our first 2022 World Cup qualifiers that this tournament and the fact we are going to be together for so long this summer should benefit us when we come to the World Cup qualifying games in the autumn months.

“That’s how I’m thinking and I’m hoping we can do that. The biggest thing is the players enjoy coming away with the group now, there is a good atmosphere in the squad. You can see that and you can tell in the way the lads give their interviews.

“The more successful you are, the better that spirit will become. We just want to keep building on it but this tournament in the summer is the first in a long time.

“Everyone involved in the national team and the process of getting us there, going back to my predecessor Alex McLeish and his staff and the boys who won their Nations League group to earn us the play-off - they can all feel part of it. Hopefully in the summer, we can all come together and have a great time.”

Clarke can fully focus on the 26 players he has selected for the Group D campaign against Czech Republic, England and Croatia next month after making the difficult decisions on which ones would miss out such as Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths.

“Leigh's just like every player – I thank him for his contribution to Scotland but I don't think he's had enough minutes on the pitch this season,” said Clarke.

“Sometimes you have to move on and make tough calls. It wasn't just Leigh, they were all tough.

“Callum Paterson has done well for me, Lawrence Shankland has done well – Oli Burke scored the winner against Cyprus for me in my very first game.

“You don't forget those moments, they're all important. So, rather than single out one of those who are left out, it's important to remember all of them because they've all played their part.”

Clarke is happy with the balance of his squad as he welcomes Celtic winger James Forrest back into the fold after his injury problems and also looks forward to seeing what impact uncapped trio Nathan Patterson, Billy Gilmour and David Turnbull can have.

“Obviously I want them to step up and be as good as they can be,” he said. “I want them to go to the tournament, like everybody, and enjoy the experience. I want them to be determined to then get to Qatar 2022.

“That’s why you qualify for tournaments, because you want to enjoy the moments.

“You want everyone to go there competitive, trying to be part of the team, to be part of a successful team and then move on to the next tournament.

“It’s a reasonably young group of players, Declan Gallagher would be the oldest (outfield) at 30, so it’s a squad that can hopefully grow together.

“The balance of the squad is good, that’s important as a coach when you come to a tournament like this.

“James Forrest is fresh, ready to go and he has good experience at international level. He was good for me before his injury and I'm sure he'll be good for Scotland after his injury as well.

“When Ryan Fraser joins us after time out through injury, will also be fresh. Hopefully, we can use our Spanish training camp wisely for players who need a rest.

“Scott McTominay will be training with Manchester United right up until the Europa League Final on May 26 and Billy Gilmour will be the same with Chelsea ahead of the Champions League Final on May 29, so they will join us a bit later than the rest.

“Unless they want to come early, of course, that's up to them! We'll see who needs work and I'm sure we'll get the balance right.

“Come the first game against Czech Republic on June 14, I want us to be flying and ready to go.”

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