'We're monitoring it': Steve Clarke braced for last-minute disruption ahead of Scotland v Ireland
Scotland have put uncapped Motherwell goalkeeper Liam Kelly on stand-by as they prepare to host Republic of Ireland in a crucial Nations League fixture at a sold-out Hampden Park.
Manager Steve Clarke is dealing with a personnel issue that he could do without as he prepares for a clash that can go a long way to securing top place in Group B1.
It has emerged that first choice Craig Gordon had to leave the Scotland camp on the day of the midweek win against Ukraine to be with his partner Summer Harl, who is preparing to give birth to her second child with the 'keeper.
It proved a false alarm and Gordon returned in time to win his 71st cap in the 3-0 win. Summer is now several days past her due date and Clarke admitted the Scotland coaches had to be cognisant of the situation.
“Absolutely it’s something we have to monitor and we’re monitoring it,” said Clarke, when asked about the impact on preparations. “It’s possible we’ll have the same sort of Saturday as we had a Wednesday but the most important part of that is that mum and baby do well.”
Gordon was at the squad camp on the outskirts of Edinburgh yesterday and was due to train last night.
The situation is newsworthy because Gordon’s deputies are the untried Kelly and Robby McCrorie, who as Rangers No. 3 keeper has not made a competitive appearance this season. It would have been preferable for Clarke if the situation involved any other position on the pitch apart from goalkeeper – or it was at a time when he had more experienced back-up to call on.
The manager is, though, accentuating the positives on the eve of a mouth-watering fixture. Clarke has targeted a redemptive win over Republic of Ireland at a packed Hampden Park whatever happens earlier in the day between Ukraine and Armenia.
The manager is aware that if Ukraine drop points in Yerevan, then Scotland could seal top place in their group with a victory a matter of hours later in Glasgow.
Two draws in their last two games – Scotland travel to face a re-match against Ukraine in Krakow on Tuesday – would be sufficient to win Group B1 and secure a play-off semi-final spot for Euro 2024 as well as second seed status ahead of the qualifiers.
Clarke is operating on the assumption Ukraine will beat Armenia. He is also desperate for Scotland to maintain their momentum after the midweek 3-0 success over Ukraine.
“We have to win the game,” he said. “Emotionally it is better for everybody if we can win and go to Ukraine with a win. Obviously two draws will do us. But you have to set up to win the game.
“We want to win, we want to win at Hampden. When we play there at home we want teams to know they are coming for a tough game."
The Scotland manager has called up St Mirren defender Declan Gallagher and Josh Doig, now of Verona, after the departure of Nathan Patterson and David Turnbull due to injury.
Patterson was injured during the win against Ukraine, but Clarke said he had no fresh update regarding the severity of the ankle injury he sustained. Originally it was thought the full back had damaged his knee.