Liam Palmer believes Scotland will benefit from the new professional approach introduced by Steve Clarke and which was lacking under his predecessor, Alex McLeish.
The Sheffield Wednesday right-back was called into the senior squad for the first time under McLeish and made his debut in the ill-fated opening match of the current campaign against Kazakhstan. A 3-0 defeat put Scotland on the back foot immediately and Palmer was dropped to the bench for the next game against San Marino. He was clearly unimpressed with the set-up.
Palmer, pictured, played for the first time under Clarke in last month’s 4-0 defeat by Russia after he was excused from the previous double header because his wife had just given birth to a daughter. He kept his jersey for the 6-0 win over San Marino and flew out with the squad on Thursday for Saturday’s penultimate group qualifier against Cyprus.
Despite continued withdrawals from the squad, he can detect a happier, more structured camp to the one he experienced under McLeish at the start of the campaign.
“The manager changed after that and since the new manager has come in it’s been a lot more professional,” he said. “In the first camp, when McLeish was in charge, that is what I’d expected it would be like. Now it is like that. We do things the right way.
“It’s things around the hotel, like everybody eating together and wearing trainers, not flip-flops. It’s those type of things that make it a bit more professional. It might sound small but waiting to all go to training together and all coming off together feeds into what you do on the pitch. For me they make a
Palmer has greater insight than most into Steven Fletcher’s current frame of mind when it comes to international football. Fletcher, pictured, is leading the line to good effect at Wednesday but has put his Scotland career on hold due to injury concerns.
Clarke has stressed it is up to the striker to inform him when he wishes to be considered for a return to the international fold.
“I have given him a few digs, I said that the last time about coming back,” said Palmer. “But I think that is down to him, and his sort of decision-making process, nothing I am going to say is going to change his mind. He knows all the boys here, because he has been away. He follows the lads, and Scottish football – he is a big Celtic fan. He is always asking ‘how is so and so doing?’”
Palmer was asked if there was a chance Fletcher might notify Clarke of his availability ahead of the play-offs in March.
“It is hard to say, he loves football, he loves playing,” he said. “So, if the manager did want that to happen, and he did want to come, you would never say never.
“With Fletch, he has got to that age now where he is trying to look after his body and prolong his club career as long as possible. With the demands put on him with the team at the moment he is obviously a main focal point, everything goes through him. He comes off the pitch with stitches, bleeding, nearly every single game. Physically he is in demand in aerial battles and things.
“He works tirelessly on his own. He is feeding off scraps, chasing things that don’t come, so it is demanding in different ways.
“That is someone who is giving his all week in week out and he has decided that coming away isn’t going to help him prolong [his club career].”