'Judge the player' - Anger as criticism of Scotland and Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson is addressed

Scotland manager Steve Clarke has issued a stiff defence of skipper Andy Robertson after being angered by criticism of the skipper’s performances for Scotland.

Scotland skipper Andy Robertson warms up ahead of the World Cup qualifier against the Faroe Islands - he has been the target for recent criticism (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Scotland skipper Andy Robertson warms up ahead of the World Cup qualifier against the Faroe Islands - he has been the target for recent criticism (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Clarke was responding to suggestions the player had been under par against Israel, on a night when he was asked to play in two different positions after Scotland switched from a back three to a back four at half-time.

Robertson could sit out tonight against the Faroe Islands after playing two hard games. This has been compounded by a six-hour flight back from Tel Aviv on Monday. But if he is absent, it won’t because of form – and neither will it be because of tactics.

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Clarke stressed that he’s long past deliberating whether Kieran Tierney and Robertson can play in the same team. He knows they can.

“It’s a problem more for the media and the pundits and the supporters, not for us,” he said. “I thought the left-hand side – whether I play Kieran left centre back and Andy left back, or Kieran left centre back of a three and Andy left wingback – works well.

“I thought the criticism of Andy Robertson the other night was poor. He had a good game. Judge the player. It was poor on Monday, really poor. Andy Robertson had a really good game for us the other night, first half and second half.”

Clarke rejected the notion that Robertson saves his best performances for Liverpool. This interpretation ignores the fact he is surrounded by better players at Anfield while he is also not expected to carry the team the way he is with Scotland.

“I think it is unfair,” said Clarke. “It is a different team. Listen, we have spoken about this one before and everyone saying we cannot get Andy and Kieran in the same team. We can do it. And we have done it, consistently. And maybe that’s one of the reasons why we have qualified for a major tournament. They were decent that night [in Belgrade] as well. For me it is no longer a discussion. We can do it.”

How many changes?

Clarke revealed he was not intending to make as many changes as might have been the case had Scotland won either or both of their first two World Cup qualifiers. He has already picked his team but would not reveal whether he would stick with four at the back. He switched to this formation at half-time against Israel and saw Scotland’s fortunes improve as they came back to draw 1-1 with an equaliser from Ryan Fraser. The Faroe Islands play 4-4-2 but Clarke advised against getting “too hung up” on systems.

“There is a case to go to a back four but then there is a case to say what we’ve done with a back three has been really good for us,” he said.

One area of the pitch where did admit seriously considering a change is goalkeeper. Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon could come in to replace David Marshall, who has looked suspect at two of the three goals Scotland have conceded in their last two outings.

“That’s possible,” he said. “It’s possible. Three games in a week, it’s possible to have a look at another goalkeeper. I can use the depth of the squad if I feel it’s the right thing to do.”

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