The necessity to postpone Scotland’s play-off semi-final against Ukraine until June at the earliest because of the on-going war inflicted on that country by Russia means there will be a pot four position left essentially unassigned.
It will be taken by Scotland, Ukraine or Wales, the nation that lies in wait for whoever prevails in their delayed play-off semi-final.
The situation explains why Clarke won’t allow himself to think about what the shakedown could mean for him and his players as he tunes in to see the balls being plucked from the glass bowls in the draw ceremony screened from Qatari capital Doha on April 1.
“I am not too bothered [about it] to be honest because we are not there yet. We will be in as a TBC – to be confirmed!” said the Scotland manager. “We shall just wait and see. We will watch it and obviously we will be interested in what might be. But might be’s don’t matter in football. Not really [is there any pride being involved in the draw]. Not for me anyway. I want to get there. When we get there – if we get there – then we can start talking about pride and how well we have done. We have to get there and have two more steps to make.”
The logisitics involved in decanting a 22-man squad and extensive support team to the Middle East country for at least three weeks to contest a finals that will run from November 21 to December 18 means Scotland already have had to earmark three training camps.
“We have to qualify first. We have to qualify,” said Clarke. “Graeme Jones, the head of performance has been out there and if get there we will get one of those three places and, whichever one, it will be adequate for us. It is just the uncertainty more than anything. But, as I always say, the backdrop to that is that we cannot complain about it because Ukraine are in a hell of a position in the way the country is. And the fact they are at war at this stage makes everything else totally inconsequential. We just have to deal with it.”