'There's no conversation to have': Scotland boss Steve Clarke given strong assurances over future

Ian Maxwell, the SFA chief executive, has stressed that nothing has happened in recent weeks to give him cause to regret handing Scotland manager Steve Clarke a new contract last year.

Steve Clarke has a contract as Scotland's manager until the summer of 2024.
Steve Clarke has a contract as Scotland's manager until the summer of 2024.

The international side suffered a bruising as well as exhausting last international window when they suffered World Cup elimination at the hands of Ukraine and then crashed 3-0 to Republic of Ireland in the Nations League in Dublin.

Two wins provided some comfort but could not gloss over the more serious ramifications of the two defeats.

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Even Clarke himself said the players had failed in their primary objective to reach the World Cup. “Two wins against Armenia are not going to make this international camp a good one – because it wasn’t,” the manager reflected.

Maxwell has had more time to apply some perspective. Although Clarke came under heavy criticism from some quarters earlier this month, the chief executive, who last month celebrated four years in the post, said “there was no conversation to have” when it came to the question of the manager’s future.

The manager has a contract running until after qualifying for Euro 2024 and has already stated he would like the opportunity to take Scotland to the World Cup finals in 2026.

He has now received unequivocal support from the head of the SFA.

“There’s no conversation to have, there’s genuinely no conversation to have,” said Maxwell. “There’s been nothing that’s happened that gives me any doubt at all that he is the guy for the job.”

Speaking after the SFA’s agm and for the first time since Scotland exited the World Cup qualifying equation, Maxwell revealed the governing body recorded a record turnover of £48m.

“A big part of that is the men’s participation in the Euros and hosting the Euros,” he explained. “It’s probably a little bit false because we are not quite out of the pandemic and there is a wee bit more activity to return before we get a truer picture, but it just shows you the benefit that qualification has.”

Maxwell revealed there is now a highest-ever total of 38,000 Scottish Supporters’ Club members, 29,000 of whom bought a five-game package for the March friendly against Poland and this month’s games against Ukraine and Armenia as well as two upcoming Nations League clashes with Ukraine, again, and Republic of Ireland.

Scotland made around £8 million from qualifying for Euro 2020. According to Maxwell, there was no financial cost in failing to reach this winter’s World Cup because it was not budgeted for.

The chief executive said that Clarke’s future as Scotland manager does not necessarily hinge on qualifying for Euro 2024 in Germany.

He added that he had “no doubt” that the manager was getting the best out of a group considered to be the most talented since the 1990s.

“If he doesn’t get to the Euros then we’ll need to look at things on balance and see what’s happened over that period of time,” said Maxwell.

“It’s not a ‘if we don’t get to the Euros, Steve Clarke won’t be the manager’ headline, it’s not a ‘if we do get to the Euros, Steve Clarke will be the manager’ headline. We need to assess things at the point in time and see what’s best for the national team.

“You can’t make a knee-jerk reaction, because you are then constantly changing because of the size of country we are and the standard that we’ve got,” he added. “We’re not a Germany, but even then, Germany, France and England have all lost games in June and none of them have sacked their manager as far as I’m aware.”

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