Steve Clarke books in Scotland Euro 2024 striker meeting with coaches as he reveals status of Liam Cooper and Ben Doak

Striker decision to come imminently after victory over Gibraltar

Steve Clarke will “have a little chat” with his backroom staff on Tuiesday as he ponders what to do about his striker dilemma with time running out before Friday’s Euro 2024 squad deadline.

The Scotland manager has revealed that Bristol City striker Tommy Conway, who scored a header for the Scotland Under-21s in their 2-1 defeat to Turkey on Monday night, is very much in the frame. “It was nice that Tommy scored,” he said. “He is a good boy Tommy and he is certainly in my mind.”

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Clarke was certainly given plenty of food for thought in the team’s opening pre-tournament friendly, with Scotland posting a modest performance in the 2-0 win over Gibraltar on the Algarve. Both goals came in the second half, with Ryan Christie opening the scoring just before the hour mark and Che Adams coming on to seal the win with five minutes left. Thank goodness for Adams, who seems certain to start next Friday against Germany in the opening game of Euro 2024 – fitness permitting.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke has a decision to make on his strikers.Scotland manager Steve Clarke has a decision to make on his strikers.
Scotland manager Steve Clarke has a decision to make on his strikers.

Clarke was dealt a new blow on that front when defender Liam Cooper limped off after 77 minutes. He had replaced Grant Hanley at half-time but received a knock to his knee in a collision. Clarke, who sat in the stand rather than in the dugout in order to gain a broader view, admits it was an anxious moment. “Of course I was worried,” he said. “Every time someone goes down … you get some who try to pull the wool over the referee’s eyes but Liam doesn’t stay down very often. I was trying to get a message down – obviously I watched the game from higher up – I was trying to get a message down to the bench saying any doubt, get him off. That’s what we did.”

Cooper suffered a knock to his knee and will be assessed over the next 48 hours, with the squad flying straight back to Glasgow after Monday evening’s game. “Fingers crossed it will be fine,” said Clarke, who does not have his problems to seek following Lyndon Dykes’ withdrawal at the weekend due to an ankle injury.

The manager’s priority is now deciding who replaces Dykes, if anyone. The 22-year-old Conway certainly picked a good night to score his third goal for the Under-21s. Other strikers who are in the reckoning include Southampton’s Ross Stewart and Plymouth Argyle’s Ryan Hardie. Clarke will gather his coaches together on Tuesday.

“I‘ve still got to sit down with John (Carver) and James (Morrison) and Austin (MacPhee) and Chris Woods and just have a little chat through and try to come up with something that will help us now going into this tournament,” he said. “That’s for tomorrow. Can we replace Lyndon like for like? No. Would it have been a better performance (tonight) with Lyndon in the team? Probably no, because they dealt very, very well with high balls into the box. They defended the box really well. So we just need to find a little bit more craft from certain players on the pitch to unpick that type of defence.”

Ryan Christie was on the scoresheet for Scotland.Ryan Christie was on the scoresheet for Scotland.
Ryan Christie was on the scoresheet for Scotland.

One player who might have been able to provide such artistry is Ben Doak. Although Clarke had suggested he might get “some minutes” against Gibraltar, he was not even included among the substitutes. The teenager’s debut will have to wait and might now come against Finland on Friday in the squad’s Hampden send-off. “He has had a little reaction to the two training days so we just decided not to risk him,” the manager explained. “Take him off the bench and there is no risk.”

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