Rod Petrie says Scotland should not rush into Euro 2020 play-off

SFA president keen to reschedule vital Hampden clash with Israel for next year

Scotland manager Steve Clarke will lead his team into the Euro 2020 play-off against Israel but, as yet, no one knows when that will be. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS

It is easy to forget that Scotland were only weeks away from their most important international in 17 years when the country was sent into lockdown by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Yet Scottish FA president Rod Petrie gives the impression he would not be averse to the Euro play-off semi-final at home to Israel for Steve Clarke, inset, and his men retaining a March date. Only March 2021, instead of 2020.

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On the back of pushing back the Euro 2020 finals for which Hampden will be a host venue until next summer, Petrie is hopeful that Uefa won’t force countries to contest the play-offs before they are ready. As it stands, the governing body’s rolling plan is to fit these games in on dates in October and November. The prospects for any football in Scotland before the turn of the year appear to be ebbing by the day because of the need to retain social distancing across the rest of the year. Petrie doesn’t want Scotland to be at any disadvantage as the national team seeks to qualify for a major finals for the first time in 23 years.

“The tournament is scheduled to start in June 2021, so there’s no pressure to play that play-off fixture in 2020. Why not take the time? We want to have the strongest Scotland team we have. That means players back playing domestic football to the best of their capability and playing well for the national team to make sure we qualify. We have a mixture of home internationals and players that play largely in England and we want all those players to be at the top of their game. I don’t see putting ourselves under undue pressure of time serves us at all. It is better to wait until we have the strongest pool of players to pick from.

“Nobody is suggesting that it is cut and dried any particular way. As is said it is a rolling plan at the moment. Uefa have given certain indications when games could be played but as the pandemic has continued across nations in Europe, those dates have gone back.

“We were talking and struggling to see how we get domestic football played. When it comes to international football, it means jumping in a plane and crossing international borders. We will be respectful and we will hear what Uefa has to say and we will have the opportunity to say what we think is best. But, equally, when they tell us what the plan is, that’s fine.

“Everybody, from the weakest up, has got to get there, whenever that might be with the state of the Covid-19 pandemic in individual countries. I don’t see any airlines opening up any time soon to mass travel. OK, when you are talking about moving a football team you can charter a plane, but you still have to have an airport to land in, arrangements from that country that would allow for an influx of people. None of the dates is set in stone at the moment, they are the latest estimates of when things might happen. We will abide by Uefa’s decision on it.”

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