Why a St Johnstone player must be named in Steve Clarke's Scotland squad this week

Ahead of Steve Clarke naming his Scotland squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifying triple-header on Tuesday, it would be worth checking the skies above Perth for a blue moon.

Zander Clark in action for St Johnstone during the UEFA Conference League qualifier against LASK Linz
Zander Clark in action for St Johnstone during the UEFA Conference League qualifier against LASK Linz

You see, a St Johnstone player being capped for the senior national side is a rare occurance indeed. It has happened only once in the last 89 years, and even that was limited to a fleeting last minute substitute appearance.

When Murray Davidson came off the bench in a 2-1 win over Luxembourg in 2012, it was the first time since goalkeeper Sandy McLaren in 1932 that a Saints player had represented Scotland. ​

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Now with the McDiarmid Park club achieving remarkable feats both domestically and in Europe, it would be a terrible sin if there was another such long wait for one of their players to be recognised at international level.

Murray Davidson, the only St Johnstone player to be capped for Scotland in the last 89 years, against Luxembourg in 2012.

Last season's national cup double was among the greatest achievements our game has ever seen. The last team outwith the Old Firm to lift both League and Scottish cups was Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen – a side littered with Scottish internationals – in season 1989-90.

Their headturning results on the continent this season only underline how good this St Johnstone side are. Away draws at both Galatasaray and LASK – two European heavyweights – would be considered good outcomes for Celtic and Rangers, sides with infinitely greater resources.

A small club in comparison to those they are rubbing shoulders with, St Johnstone now stand within 90 minutes of European group stage football, and a momentous moment in the annuls of the Scottish game.

While there is no doubt that the Perth side are greater than the sum of their parts, and that Callum Davidson – a future Scotland manager in the making – deserves huge credit for how he has organised his team, their success could not have been achieved without good individual players, of which they have a few.

St Johnstone captain Jason Kerr is knocking on the door of a Scotland call-up .(Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

Murray Davidson is 33 now, and despite his continued heroic displays in the middle of the park for his hometown club, his first cap is likely to remain his last given Scotland's strength in that particular area.

But there are several of his teammates who are knocking on the international door, and in positions where Steve Clarke ought to be mulling over his options, ahead of the September matches against Denmark, Moldova and Austria.

The foundation of Saints success has been their solidity at the back where centre-backs Liam Gordon, Jason Kerr, and Jamie McCart have formed an impressive unit in front of Zander Clark.

All four could have arguements for inclusion, but in the St Johnstone goalkeeper, there is a player that can surely no longer be overlooked by Clarke.

Behind every successful side is a solid and reliable custodian – just ask Celtic – and Clark must now be in serious contention for his first international call-up at any level.

In terms of shot-stopping, kicking, communication he ticks all the boxes and his fearless performances in Turkey and Austria show that he is capable of perfoming on the big stage. He could even come in handy in the opposition box if Scotland are chasing a last minute equaliser, as his Scottish Cup heroics at Ibrox last season will testify.

Given Scotland's issues in the goalkeeping department – David Marshall is now third choice at Derby County, Craig Gordon is performing well for Hearts but is approaching 39-years-old, and Jon McLaughlin only getting the odd-game for Rangers – there is an opening for Clark, or at least there ought to be.

Clarke has been faithful to his regulars, but the end of the Euro 2020 journey, where Scotland's first qualification for a major finals in 28 years ended in the customary group stage disappointment, despite the heroics at Wembley, feels like the right time to close some doors and open new ones.

The Scotland boss has shown his willingness to look beyond Glasgow’s big two when it comes to filling his squad with SPFL players – the likes of Stephen O'Donnell, Declan Gallagher, Andy Considine, Paul Hanlon and Kevin Nisbet have all won their first caps under his tenure.

If Motherwell, Aberdeen and Hibs players are good enough for call-ups, then St Johnstone’s certainly are.

Alongside Clark, club captain Jason Kerr is also pushing for a call-up, but while there is a dearth of options in the goalkeeping department, there is increasing competition for a place in the Scotland defence.

With Kieran Tierney nailing down the left side position in the back three, and Grant Hanley arguably stepping up and claiming the central position with his performances at Euro 2020, it is only the right-side central berth that is up for grabs, which so happens to be Kerr’s position for St Johnstone, and one he has been starring in.

Jack Hendry has not looked overly convincing when played there, and while Scott McTominay has played on the right of the back three to varying degrees of success, Clarke has stated that he wants the Manchester United man in midfield.

To do that he needs a solution and Kerr is worth a look. John Souttar is another performing well at club level.

The Hearts defender already has three caps to his name, although he has yet to feature under Clarke, having been largely unavailable for his most of his tenure due to long-term injury.

He made his debut in a 4-0 drubbing against a star-studded Belgian side in 2018, then a month later, in his third appearance, he was sent off in a 2-1 defeat to Israel.

Hardly the start to his international career he would have wanted, but with his injury woes now behind him, and on the back of an impressive start to the season at Hearts, it would be no surprise to see the 24-year-old make the list, which would be great, as long at least one St Johnstone player makes the cut.

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