Romelu Lukaku has predicted Scotland’s fortunes will be transformed under Steve Clarke if he is given enough time to implement his ideas.
Belgian superstar Lukaku helped inflict another painful night on Clarke’s squad at Hampden on Monday night, opening the scoring as Scotland slumped to a 4-0 defeat in their latest Euro 2020 qualifying match.
It left the Scots second-bottom of Group I, nine points adrift of an automatic qualification spot with just four matches remaining. Next March’s play-offs, in which Scotland are already assured of a place through their Uefa Nations League group success last year, now offer the only realistic route for Clarke to plot a route to the Euro 2020 finals.
Lukaku worked under Clarke at both Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion, his 17 goals for the West Midlands club in 2012-13 helping them to eighth place in the English Premier League – their highest top-flight finish since 1981.
The 26-year-old Inter Milan striker retains the highest regard for Clarke, crediting him for a major role in his development, and insists his former coach can lead Scotland to success.
“If you give Steve time, he will get it right for Scotland,” said Lukaku. “When we were at West Brom together, a lot of people didn’t think we could get to the position we did. But we did it under Steve.
“He is the right man to give young players a chance and test them.
“I think Scotland have a lot of good talent coming through. Scott McTominay, who I played with at Manchester United, can be very important for Scotland but he’s not the only one.
“I like Ryan Fraser a lot and also Oliver Burke, who has a lot of pace and can come back into the squad. You just have to develop them and work hard. If you do that, then things will improve under Steve.”
Lukaku drew parallels with the dramatic improvements that Belgium, now ranked the best team in the world by Fifa, have made since he made his international debut in 2010. He joined a squad who were ranked as low as 71st in the midst of a spell which saw them fail to qualify for five successive major tournament finals from 2004 to 2012.
“It wasn’t always like it is for us now,” he added. “When I started with the international team only half of the players we have now were in the starting line-up.
“It takes time, you have to be patient if you want to improve. We went through ups and downs before we changed everything – the staff changed, we became more professional and we have had the benefits of that.
“Belgium is a small nation but it all starts in the academy, you have to give players a chance and also give them time to develop. When the players are ready to make the step to the big teams in Europe they have to make the right choices.
“In Belgium the clubs are helping them make those decisions, they are sending players to teams where they can play a lot. I think you see the benefit of that. We have confidence in ourselves, we have had to work hard to get to where we want to be.”