Steve Clarke on Scotland contract talks, why he chose Netherland test, and dealing with Covid scare

Scotland manager Steve Clarke has welcomed reports that Ian Maxwell, the SFA chief executive, is preparing to offer him a new contract after Euro 2020.

Head coach Steve Clarke oversees a Scotland training session at La Finca Resort in Alicante, Spain (Photo by Jose Breton / SNS Group)

Clarke insists he is happy in the role and wants to be the one to take Scotland to the World Cup in Qatar having already succeeded in ending a major finals famine.

“Ian is also going to meet us in Portugal so I will be chewing his ear!” said Clarke as he prepared to face the Netherlands in the Algarve in Scotland’s first pre-Euro 2020 friendly.

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“It’s not about me,” he added. “I am going to concentrate on the team and hopefully get the team in a good shape, do well in the tournament and let the Scottish public enjoy a tournament. It’s great to be involved. It’s not about me. That will take care of itself after the tournament.”

Alerted to the fact Maxwell said he remained confident that Clarke, despite potential interest from elsewhere, would stay for the duration of the World Cup qualifiers, the manager stressed that this had always been his plan.

“I’ve been really consistent," he said. "I told you guys when we beat Serbia to qualify that I’d be here for the tournament. I’m here. And I’m telling you I want to be the guy who takes the team to the World Cup finals in Qatar in 2022 and if that can happen with or without a new contract, I’m comfortable.

“I am enjoying the role,” he added. “I have learned a lot in the two years that I’ve been in the job. I feel more comfortable now as an international head coach than I did at the start. I’m enjoying the job. The success has been great, but I want more success.”

Scotland will this evening take on the Netherlands at Estadio Algarve in Portugal. The opposition were very deliberately chosen by Clarke ahead of games against Czech Republic, England and Croatia. “The Dutch play have their own style but it’s not dissimilar to how the other teams in the group will play against us,” he said.

Scotland are certain to be without three members of the 26-man squad.

Scott McTominay and Billy Gilmour are joining up after the game following their club commitments with Manchester United and Chelsea respectively. Midfielder John Fleck is absent after testing positive for Covid 19.

The rest of the squad returned negative tests after being retested but it is clearly a blow to lose a player just 12 days ahead of their tournament opener.

“We’re 99.9 percent sure that John would have had it before he came to Spain with the incubation period,” said Clarke. “Hopefully it’s a one-off and an isolated case.

“I’ve spoken to John, he’s fine and has no symptoms. We’ll try and make his time stuck in his room as good as possible for him. We’ll get an exercise bike into his room and keep him moving. And we’ll look after him, that’s all we can do.

“But we don’t really want that situation to be the big story. The big story is that we’re in camp and had a fantastic time up until now. The training has been good, everything has been top notch. The only thing we haven’t really controlled very well is the weather.”

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