Steve Clarke urges Scotland to embrace facing a crowd and show belief

Manager Steve Clarke wants his Scotland players to show belief and embrace the novelty of playing in front of a crowd against Israel in Tel Aviv tonight.

Steve Clarke and his players flew over to Israel yesterday from Edinburgh ahead of their match in Tel Aviv.
Steve Clarke and his players flew over to Israel yesterday from Edinburgh ahead of their match in Tel Aviv.

Scotland take on familiar opponents in the Israelis, with the World Cup qualifier in Group F the sixth meeting between the two nations in three years, fresh from battling back twice to record a 2-2 draw against Austria.

Clarke wants his players to maintain that fighting spirit and self-assurance at Bloomfield Stadium against a team that defeated them 1-0 in the Middle East back in November and will be backed by a crowd up to 5000 spectators due to the improved coronavirus situation in Israel.

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"I like to think the players have that belief anyway,” said Clarke when asked about the importance of confidence within the current squad. “We speak about it, we’re working to get more international experience into the squad. Some of them are approaching mid-20 and 30-odd caps. Robbo’s [Andy Robertson] got 40-odd. We’re starting to build up a good experienced squad so that when we go to these places we should know what to expect. We certainly know what to expect from the Israelis.”

All of Scotland’s players have gone months with playing behind closed doors, but with Israel fans in attendance, Clarke hopes his team will get an extra boost by the atmosphere generated by the home support.

"It’ll be nice that there’ll be a little crowd in as well so there’ll be an atmosphere,” said Clarke. “That might give us a little boost as well, because the players have been playing in empty stadiums so having an atmosphere might work in our favour I think. We know the task in hand. Israel tend to get talked down a little bit because they’re a fourth-pot team but they’re a good team, we know that from previous meetings. There’s not a lot between the teams. But this time we have to make sure the small margins come down on our side.

"We’ll mention the crowd because it’ll be different to them. But we’re getting experience of going away from home and playing in front of a hostile crowd. I used to enjoy it when I played – you go there with an attitude of going and digging in, getting the result you want. Hopefully we can feed off the crowd.”

Clarke admitted that he is tempted to hand Southampton striker Che Adams his first start for Scotland after he made his debut off the subs bench in Thursday night’s game against Austria. Adams impressed with his touch and movement in the half-hour appearance and Clarke now must decide whether his only English top-flight forward has done enough to merit a place in the starting XI, either alongside Lyndon Dykes or at the expense of his fellow attacker.

"I’m tempted to throw him [Adams] in but I thought Lyndon did well for us again the other night,” said Clarke. “He’s a good target player, gives us a good out, fits well into the way we play. Ryan Christie was lively again, a little bit unlucky in the first half when he got the finish on his right foot. I think if that had been a left-foot finish Ryan would’ve scored with that one. So we have good options up front. Young Kevin Nisbet has looked good in training so we have good options.”

Clarke also refuted the notion that anything other than three points in Israel would be damaging to Scotland’s chances of reaching Qatar in 2022.

You can never say the second game in a group – where there are so many points up for grabs – is a must-win,” added Clarke. “That's difficult to say.

“Austria plays Denmark later in the week so one of them or both is going to drop points.

“It's a section with twists and turns. It might not be apparent now but I promise you, this will be a group with twists and turns.”