Scotland fans given strong message as Steve Clarke opens up on Andy Robertson chat
Steve Clarke has instructed the Tartan Army to give their usual wholehearted backing to Scotland after paying the Ukraine national anthem the respect both it and the currently war-ravaged nation deserve.
“The fans can be massive for us,” said Clarke. “We will respect the Ukrainian national anthem and we will applaud the Ukrainian national anthem. Then from there they have to sing their hearts out, get behind the team and drive the team on.”
Clarke is preparing to face one of the most awkward and challenging assignments of any Scotland manager. He is aiming to lead his side to a World Cup play-off final against Wales at the expense of a Ukrainian side who will enjoy the backing of nearly every neutral.
Even some Scots have admitted they are finding it hard to separate current events in Ukraine, where Russia have recently taken half of the key city of Sievierodonetsk, from what will take place at Hampden Park. The Russian invasion is continuing and, according to reports, is even gathering intensity as the Ukraine national team prepares to play its first competitive game since last November.
Legendary former Scotland skipper Graeme Souness admitted in a Sunday newspaper last weekend that not only did he want Ukraine to qualify for the World Cup, he wanted them “to go there and win it”. He added that he was glad he wasn’t one of the Scotland players being asked to play on such an intense occasion. “I don’t know where my emotions would be,” he said.
Clarke reasoned that everyone was welcome to their own opinion. Souness was fortunate enough to experience three World Cups. The manager argued that he and his players are desperate to sample just one.
Clarke was left out of the final pool of players selected for the 1990 World Cup in Italy having been included in the original squad.
“Everybody is going to have their own opinion on the situation,” he said. “Everyone is going to feel different about the situation. I want to go to the World Cup in Qatar.
"I have been quite clear about that from the start. This is another step on the road. My staff are desperate to go. But the most important part for me is that our players want to represent their country in Qatar at a World Cup finals.”
Clarke has personnel dilemmas over replacing the injured Kieran Tierney at left centre-back and who covers for Nathan Patterson, who has failed to shake off an ankle injury. Clarke believes there is a chance Patterson could be available for Sunday.
The manager had no qualms over clips of Andy Robertson celebrating on board an open-topped bus on Sunday as Liverpool players celebrated the end of the season after their FA Cup and Carabao Cup successes. The Anfield side had lost the Champions League final against Real Madrid the previous night in Paris but decided to go ahead with the parade. The Scotland skipper was seen dancing around with a bottle in his hand.
“We had a little chat and he is fine,” said Clarke. “Listen, Liverpool had a great season.
“They have two of the four major trophies in the cabinet, missed out on the league by a point and one goal did them in the Champions League final. They should have been in front before they conceded that goal.
“They were very close to the quadruple, they’ve had a great season. Finishing with two disappointments is something you learn to deal with as a professional player.
“It’s not as if he is going to a poor Nations League end of season game with Scotland. It’s one of the biggest games he has probably ever faced for his country, so … he will be ready to go.”