Scotland manager Steve Clarke ready to pitch Che Adams into heat of World Cup battle

Steve Clarke believes new recruit Che Adams has helped raise the standard of the Scotland squad.

Che Adams (foreground) and Lyndon Dykes - could play up front together against Austria (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

The Southampton forward is on standby to make his debut against Austria as the Scots embark on their latest qualifying campaign. The usual sense of desperation felt at the dawn of such an enterprise is not quite so marked following Clarke’s success in leading the team to Euro 2020. But the manager has cautioned against resting on laurels. He has sought to freshen up his squad for the start of the World Cup qualifiers with the introduction of Adams as well as Hibs striker Kevin Nisbet.

Although Scotland created some history by qualifying for a major finals against Serbia they have only scored three goals in their last six games. It’s clear where improvement is required.

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Adams’ call up was considered controversial in some quarters. The striker has belatedly opted to play international football for Scotland after turning down an original offer from Alex McLeish in 2019. He had already featured for the England Under 20s and wanted more time to consider his options.

Clarke was made aware of the player’s renewed interest earlier this month and now Adams is set to feature for the first time as a Scotland player at some point against Austria, who are ranked 25 places above their hosts. Clarke is desperate to gain some early momentum with a win before games against Israel and the Faroe Isles complete the triple-header.

“The job entails big decisions,” said Clarke. “Difficult decisions, big decisions, I have to make them if I feel somebody can go straight in and make a difference in this game. I have to pick a team I think can win the first game. You have to balance yourself because it’s three games and hopefully I get the balance right tomorrow and in the two games to follow.”

Clarke contends that newcomers such as Adams and Nisbet have helped raise the quality of the squad. The pair have been brought in while Oli Burke, Leigh Griffiths and Lawrence Shankland have dropped out.

“When we got them into training, I looked at the squad and at the level and standard of the training sessions and I turned to (assistant coach) John Carver and said: ‘I’ve just given myself more problems, the standard’s gone up’. It’s really good, it’s been good to see. Hopefully I can get the balance right across the three games and we can pick up the points.”

Meanwhile, Clarke has revealed he wants to organise two friendlies before Scotland kick off their Euro 2020 campaign against Czech Republic on 14 June at Hampden Park. However, he accepts these plans remain subject to change due to the pandemic and the tight turnaround at the end of the season.

“Depending on the situation with the virus we would like to have a couple of friendly matches before we go to the tournament,” he said. “We have to be flexible on that one. We have some plans in place, but we won’t release them because they could change at any time.

“Once we have a little more certainty about what we can and cannot do then I think that is the time to put it out. The plan would be to have a couple of competitive friendly matches.”

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