Steve Clarke won't protects stats as he discusses potential opponents ahead of Euro 2024 - 'I won’t pick super easy games'

Steve Clarke insists he is prepared to accept his personal managerial statistics will suffer if it means improving Scotland’s chances of making history in Germany next summer.

The national team manager does not have any need to worry about his popularity rating, which has spiked again after his side secured the target of this latest international break by qualifying for Euro 2024.

Clarke is the first Scotland manager to reach back-to-back European Championship finals and the latest success was achieved without kicking a ball after Spain’s win in Norway on Sunday night. On the pitch, however, the team have lost their last three games – the worst run since just after Clarke took over in 2019, when they lost four successive matches.

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That proved to be the darkest hour before the dawn and the manager regards the current run of reversals, albeit against top-tier teams, as more short-term pain designed to increase the chances of reaching the second stage of a major tournament for the first time.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke before his side's 4-1 defeat to France on Tuesday: (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)Scotland manager Steve Clarke before his side's 4-1 defeat to France on Tuesday: (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Scotland manager Steve Clarke before his side's 4-1 defeat to France on Tuesday: (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Scotland had little choice about facing Spain last week given it was a regulation qualifier but friendlies against England and France – the former marking 150 years since the first meeting - which bookended the 2-0 defeat in Seville were willingly inserted into the international calendar with Clarke’s blessing.

Although he accepted France were a class above his side in Lille, the manager doesn't want his players feeling comfortable about losing to anyone, even high quality opponents. Now Scotland must stop the prospect of a rot setting in when they complete their Group A commitments next month.

“It is a losing run,” Clarke acknowledged following a much-changed Scotland’s 4-1 defeat to a Kylian Mbappe-inspired France. “But we have to recognise the quality of the opposition. If I want to protect my stats and my win percentage then I can pick easier friendlies, but I think if I pick easier friendlies then we won’t learn anything.

“The point is to learn. It is sore to come away and lose 4-1. It is sore. The boys are hurting a little bit. Hopefully when they come back next month they will remember the hurt and they will transform that on the pitch against Georgia and Norway.”

Asked if he had considered opposition options for the four friendlies Scotland will play before Euro 2024, in Spring and then just before the finals themselves, he said he hadn’t looked that far ahead yet.

“That’s beyond next month,” he said. “We won’t know until other teams are in the play-off situation or not in the play-off situation regarding who we can play in March. And June will be similar - teams that are non-qualified for the tournament are the teams we will be looking at. I won’t pick super easy games because I still think you have to push yourself to win even friendlies.”

Clarke must decide whether to use Scotland’s new base at Lesser Hampden before the finals or else head elsewhere, as they did before the previous, Covid-affected finals in 2021, when they went to Spain.

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“It might be an idea to stay at home and maybe get a feel for the mood of the nation, which hopefully will still be very positive at the time and then decide from there and work the friendlies round that,” he said. “The March games, we will have to wait and see - but we will try and get good ones.”

Clarke is resigned to being without Kieran Tierney again for next month’s games and the news on Andy Robertson is not promising with the Liverpool left-back having been seen with his arm in a sling after dislocating his shoulder against Spain. “There will be no Kieran next month, 100 per cent,” said Clarke. “Andy I don’t know, he has gone back to his club. He will be scanned and assessed by his club and Liverpool will determine his recovery