Steve Clarke reveals when Ben Doak might make his Scotland debut and why Under-21s should be on Euros standby

Scotland head coach explains his Euro 2024 squad selections

Steve Clarke believes teenage wildcard call-up Ben Doak can make an impact at Euro 2024 next month after the Liverpool forward was included in Scotland’s provisional 28-man squad for the tournament.

The appearance of two wingers at opposite ends of the career spectrum caught the eye when the group was revealed at just after 11am yesterday. As well as 18-year-old Doak, 32-year-old James Forrest made the list, nearly three years since his last appearance for Scotland.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Clarke paid tribute to Forrest, who enjoyed a late season surge with Scottish Premiership champions Celtic.

Scotland head coach Steve Clarke outlines his provisional squad for Euro 2024 at Wednesday's Hampden press conference. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)Scotland head coach Steve Clarke outlines his provisional squad for Euro 2024 at Wednesday's Hampden press conference. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Scotland head coach Steve Clarke outlines his provisional squad for Euro 2024 at Wednesday's Hampden press conference. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

“He has been given a chance at Celtic and he’s got back in the team, and his performances, as well as the goals, grab your attention,” said Clarke. “That’s what players have to do, they have to grab your attention. When you watch Ben Doak play he grabs your attention. When you watch James Forrest play at the moment he grabs your attention. That’s why these people are in the squad.”

Doak is still short of match fitness due to a knee injury which frustratingly curtailed his season at Liverpool following a first-team breakthrough. Clarke is considering introducing the teenager against Finland in the second of two pre-Euros friendlies Scotland have lined up.

Clarke admitted the first warm-up match, against Gibraltar a week on Monday, “might come a little bit too soon” for Doak. However, he hoped the player could play an active part in the Hampden send-off against Finland five days later. “Maybe in the second game he can get some minutes on the pitch if I choose to do that,” he said.

Doak is one of two uncapped players named by Clarke, who has also turned to Bristol City’s Ross McCrorie for cover at right wing-back. Forrest has also played there for Scotland before. Clarke has lost both Aaron Hickey and Nathan Patterson from that area of the pitch due to injury.

The Scotland manager is a former right-back himself and was alert to the irony of being in such dire need of players in that position. “I didn’t pick myself!” he said, which is something he will wish he could have done at Italia ‘90, when he was excluded from Andy Roxburgh’s squad having been named in the provisional pool earlier that year. Clarke also missed out at France ’98 while enjoying an Indian summer with Chelsea.

Rather than dash players’ dreams, he was able to sustain them – for now – when naming his squad, which will be cut to the Uefa-imposed limit of 26 before the deadline of 7 June, which is the night Scotland play Finland. “I might even wait until after it because somebody might pick up an injury in the game,” Clarke said, when asked when he plans to trim the squad.

The initial 28 names were revealed via a video released by the SFA on their social media channels. The 69-seconds long video featured a diverse array of characters, including Pat Nevin, Frankie Boyle, wrestler/actor Grado and former Hearts and Rangers goalkeeper Antti Niemi.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The squad was revealed via Ceefax-style graphics, perhaps a nod to how long it has been since Scotland last travelled to a European Championship finals held abroad – 1992. Duncan Ferguson was the surprise inclusion then, with the then Dundee United forward only 20-years-old at the time and the youngest player out of all eight competing countries.

At 18, Doak is even more precocious – and, perhaps, is a bigger gamble. He is still a first-team novice at club level, appearing twice for first club Celtic and ten times to date for Liverpool. However, Clarke is confident he possesses the X-factor that could make a difference.

“At this stage, Ben is the young one who catches my eye if I am being honest,” he said. “He has got something, attributes that we don’t have in the squad. His searing pace would be one of them.

“But he has still got a lot to learn, as do all the young boys when you bring them in. Everyone has got to learn. Ben hopefully will be big player for us in the future and maybe this summer he can make a little contribution as well.”

He also cautioned against expecting too much. “It is nice that he is involved in the squad, but let’s just keep a lid on things and hope that he develops and turns out to be the talent that we think and hope he can be,” he said.

Clarke also revealed he had not spoken to Jurgen Klopp, the exiting Liverpool manager, prior to calling up Doak. “No, I speak to my captain,” he said, with reference to Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson.

He hadn’t even contacted Doak before the announcement. “We keep it exciting by just putting it out and they find out their own way, but not from me,” said Clarke. The manager did make personal contact with the four injured players excluded – Hickey, Patterson, Lewis Ferguson and Luton Town's Jacob Brown.

He also contacted those who might have felt they had a chance of inclusion but were omitted, although few fall into that category. Clarke has moulded a tight group with Scotland.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The manager revealed that he has not taken the precaution of putting players on standby in case of further injuries, with several provisional squad members in action for their clubs in the coming days.

“There is no standby group,” he said. “Well there is a standby group because Scot Gemmill will name an under-21 squad group tomorrow (Thursday) for two friendly matches. There is your standby group there. And what I would say to anybody who Scot picks for the under-21s is that it’s probably worth going to that camp because you never know what’s going to happen over the next 10 days.”



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.