Steve Clarke's accurate Scotland striker prediction, one year on: 'he's going to make the team better'

When Che Adams made his international debut a year ago yesterday, Scotland's World Cup prospects looked bleak.

Scotland's Che Adams has a shot on goal against Poland in a friendly that finished 1-1 and raised funds for UNICEF's humanitarian appeal in Ukraine. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)
Scotland's Che Adams has a shot on goal against Poland in a friendly that finished 1-1 and raised funds for UNICEF's humanitarian appeal in Ukraine. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

A 2-2 draw at home to Austria was perceived to have killed off Scotland’s hopes of making Qatar at the first hurdle.

Adams did come on to help Steve Clarke’s side rescue a point against the Austrians courtesy of John McGinn’s acrobatic overhead kick. The general feeling seemed to be that two points dropped at home against a rival for second place in the opening game was too great an obstacle to overcome, even so early in the campaign.

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A spirited Scotland disproved that with a game to spare. Another draw, this time against Poland and albeit in a friendly, provided more evidence of just how much the team have improved under Clarke in the last 12 months. Scotland were disappointed rather than relieved to have drawn with a higher-ranked nation at home. Everything remains in front of them. The World Cup is still a bewitching possibility.

Adams has scored four times for Scotland. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

The Poles may not have been firing on all cylinders given they have a World Cup play-off final to contest against Sweden on Tuesday.

But Thursday's fund-raising clash proved a competitive run out – more competitive, indeed, than the Poles will have wanted given the injuries they sustained. It kept Scotland ticking over as they play a very unsatisfying waiting game amid ongoing uncertainty due to the war in Ukraine.

Something has become clearer at least. Scotland will be heading to Cardiff to take on Wales in a play-off final if they can overcome Ukraine.

The Welsh seem to be relying on the almost supernatural will of Gareth Bale to lead them to a first World Cup finals since 1958. He will prove a major threat providing Scotland can first manage to find a way past Ukraine, who will have the backing of nearly every neutral.

Poland's Jan Bednarek (right) greets Southampton team-mates Che Adams and Stuart Armstrong ahead of Poland's friendly with Scotland at Hampden. (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire).

No one can complain about Scotland having had it easy if they are to get to Qatar at the end of this year. Such is the confidence that now exists within the squad Adams believes Scotland are a match for any nation.

Bring it on, he seems to be urging. The trouble is it can't be brought on. Not yet at least. Not until Fifa decide what should be done in an impossibly complicated and sensitive situation.

"I think we can take anyone on our day, to be honest," said Adams. "We make demands on each other every day in training, and we have belief. It’s up to us to take that onto the pitch.”

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From being something of an unknown quantity to Scots this time last year, Adams has now amassed 14 caps. He has settled into a Scotland team that is operating with a pleasing fluency.

“He is going to make the squad better,” said Clarke following the striker’s debut last year. “He is going to make the team better.”

This prediction has proved very accurate. Being held to a draw at home by a team ranked number 28 in the world is now considered slightly deflating after the recent strides taken. Adams recognised that. Poland’s late, late penalty stemmed a run of six consecutive victories and even though it was only a friendly, there was some gloom at being denied a seventh win. But the mood will be improved with a win on Tuesday as Scotland take on Austria for the third time in just over a year. The Austrians were having their World Cup hopes extinguished in Cardiff at the same time as Scotland were drawing with Poland in Glasgow.

Adams believes the disappointment in the home dressing-room at Hampden after being pegged back following an injury-time penalty was further proof of how far Scotland have come.

“A few months ago we would have snatched your hand off for that result,” said Adams. “But to come away with a draw in a game like that, now it seems like a negative. But it’s not. It just shows you the leaps and bounds this team has come on.

‘We’ve got great camaraderie in this team. We know how much quality we have in this side and we were missing our captain as well. We know we can turn it on when we want to.

“We could have been a couple of goals up with the pressure we put them under in the first half. To come away with a draw is gutting but we have positives to take from the game and we will take them into the matches in June.”

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There is still plenty more football to be played this season. Adams’ cap total could be in the 20s by the time he enjoys a well-earned rest later this summer. Scotland face a potential six-game series in June if the Ukraine play-off goes ahead. It will prove an unprecedented international schedule for Scotland – six games in around three weeks.

“It is going to be hard,” he said. “I think it will maybe be a minimum of five games. So, it’s going to be a long month but we can put on a show against anyone! It’s up to us now to see how far we want to take it.”

One player who might welcome such a busy schedule is wing back Nathan Patterson.

He once again excelled on the right for Scotland on Thursday but hasn’t so far been able to break into the Everton first team. Adams sympathises with the teenager’s plight.

“I can imagine it’s hard for him," said the Southampton player. "But with the quality he has got he can spark the game at any time,” he said. “He did that in the first half. He probably got tired towards the end.

“It just takes time and he is still young and still raw. He’s still learning his game and he’s got a good manager in Frank Lampard and he’s in a good squad. I think he can only get better.”

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