Steve Clarke explains why Scotland fans are now buying into his project

Steve Clarke celebrated the recent win v Austria (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)Steve Clarke celebrated the recent win v Austria (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Steve Clarke celebrated the recent win v Austria (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Steve Clarke believes confirmation of his first Hampden full house as international manager is proof fans are on board with his Scotland project.

Clarke has named his squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Israel and the Faroe Islands. These fixtures form Scotland’s penultimate doubleheader in a group where they now sit in second place following wins over Moldova and Austria earlier this month.

Clarke’s side are well-placed to secure a play-off berth. The manager has been boosted by the return of Scott McTominay and Stuart Armstrong after they missed the last international window due to injury.

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Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor is included despite missing the last four games for his club with a hamstring strain. Grant Hanley is also named, although the centre-half is suspended for the first game against Israel.

The critical nature of the clash a week on Saturday is reflected in the fact it is already sold-out. It will be Scotland’s biggest Hampden attendance since a qualifier against Slovakia in 2017 under Gordon Strachan.

Clarke anticipated an “electric” evening in Glasgow’s southside and claimed such supporter enthusiasm was evidence of the growing bond between the players and fans.

“I said after the Austria game that I love my players and I do love my players,” said the manager. “I love the fact they give everything for their country and they want to be successful.

“They want to qualify for another tournament and I think the supporters are buying into that, I really do. I think the fans base are buying into that and thinking ‘this is a group of players we can identify with.’

“So hopefully they support us and cheer us onto another tournament… they see that hunger and desire in the players to do well for the country. That’s how they approach every game and I see them flat out.

“I work with them closely so I know I get that. But the fans see it now.”

The recent win over Moldova was watched by just over 40,000 and is the biggest crowd to date at Hampden during Clarke’s 28 months in charge. Much of this time covered the period when crowd restrictions were in place due to Covid.

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The recent victory over Austria has re-ignited Scotland’s World Cup hopes and sparked a rush to buy the remaining tickets for the game against familiar opponents. The Saturday 5pm kick-off will be Scotland’s sixth meeting with Israel in three years and the atmosphere is guaranteed to be lively.

“We’re expected a really tough game irrespective of his many people are inside the stadium,” said Clarke. “But I’d like to think the atmosphere and the fact it is a full house will help us.

“It will be my first experience of that here at Hampden. I’m looking forward to it, and the players are too. Hopefully it just gives them that little bit extra onto their game that makes a difference on the night.

“Hampden can be a great stadium for atmosphere on nights like these,” added Clarke. “But then it’s also down to us to give the fans something.

“The pre-match and build-up to the game is going to be electric. It’s up to us to keep that atmosphere going during the game.”

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