Steve Clarke insists Scotland job has not been diminished

Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke has admitted he is interested in becoming the Scotland manager, but remained coy on whether he would accept the current vacancy.

Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke. Picture: SNS
Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke. Picture: SNS

The Scottish FA is again in the process of trying to hire a boss for the national team following Alex McLeish’s sacking earlier this week. McLeish ultimately paid the price for the 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan that got Scotland’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign off to such a miserable start.

Clarke is at short odds to be offered the post after a terrific period in charge at Killie, where he has lifted them from the foot of the Premiership to third place. This afternoon, the Rugby Park side take on Aberdeen, with a European spot very much in their sights.

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Yesterday, Clarke admitted the Scotland job is on his bucket list. “Yes, at some stage,” he said. “Whether it is now or not is a matter for you guys to talk about and speculate.”

Scotland have not qualified for a major finals since the 1998 World Cup but Clarke refuses to accept that we are doomed to be perennial outsiders on the global stage and claims the manager’s job remains an attractive one.

“The Scotland manager’s job has not been diminished; absolutely not,” he said. “Whoever is lucky enough to get the job, it should be an honour for them, especially if they’re Scottish.

“I haven’t thought about that. Alex is only one day out of the job and my only thoughts have been about putting together a team which can beat Aberdeen. That’s where I am.”

He added: “I think there are tools to work with there. At the moment there’s a very negative environment around the national team and whoever gets the job would have to change that perception.

“The only way to do that is to work hard with the players available to you and get positive results on the pitch.

“It’s like any other job. When I came in here it was all doom and gloom – the fans weren’t enjoying coming to Rugby Park and they weren’t enjoying watching their team.

“Winning matches and picking up points changes that and now there’s a really good feel around the place. It’s a pleasure to come to home games because you can sense the buzz from the fans, who get right behind the team and everyone is happy again. That has to happen with Scotland.

“I absolutely believe we have enough talent to be competitive. You have to look at other countries of similar size and stature to ours and who have similar players; they manage to reach major tournaments. You have to go into every job, league season or qualifying campaign, with positive ambitions otherwise there’s no point in doing it. If I’d come here and thought: ‘I hope we finish tenth’ and we aimed for that then we could have finished 11th or 12th; you’re better aiming to finish first and, if you fall short, you might end up in third place.”

Clarke has openly criticised referees and the SFA disciplinary process this season, while earlier this month he laid into the SPFL over its post-split fixture scheduling. Yesterday he wondered if all that might work against him when the powers that be choose McLeish’s successor.

“The most important people when it comes to vacancies are the people who are going to make that appointment and they may not like me,” he added.

“The SFA, for example, may not want me because they’re fed up with me complaining about them and the SPFL might not have liked the criticism about the way they’ve scheduled their fixtures; I haven’t exactly been quiet for the last 18 months. I’ve pointed out some things that could be done better in Scottish football.”