Steve Clarke has challenged the Scotland fringe players to force their way into his Euro 2020 plans.
The national team coach has left the door open for the likes of Lawrence Shankland, Ryan Gauld, Jason Kerr and Shaun Rooney by insisting that end of season form will be a factor when he settles on his 23-man group for the summer finals.
His mind is far from made up.
“I have some definites,” said Clarke.
“But I think I have shown with selection for this squad there is room for other people to come into the squad if they can impress me enough.
“You don’t want to put a number on it because there might be players out there hoping they can impress me enough to be involved and I don’t want to close that door on them.”
Clarke told Shankland what he wanted to see from the Dundee United striker after he was left out of the recent World Cup qualifying triple-header, while ex-Tannadice star Gauld was name-checked as one of the players pushing hard for inclusion.
St Johnstone Betfred Cup heroes such as Rooney and Jason Kerr will be encouraged by the fact that nobody has nailed down the right wing-back or right-sided centre-half role in the Scotland team of late, and their case would be strengthened if they can now help the Perth side put together a Scottish Cup and get into Europe.
“I believe it was mentioned on Wednesday,” said Clarke.
“That would obviously make selection a little bit easier for me but if I have to make a tough call then that’s my job and I will make the tough calls.”
Fears were growing a few weeks ago that the two group games scheduled for Hampden Park would be taken away from Glasgow as a result of tighter coronavirus restrictions in this country than elsewhere.
Clark believes those worries are fading away.
“I think the next competitive game will be here at Hampden,” he said.
“With elections coming up I am expecting some good news to come out from the government.
“There will be at least a few fans in the stadium.
“It obviously won’t be a full house, but if we can get some members of the Tartan Army in here they will make enough noise.
“It would be good.
“Listen, the more we can open up, the more freedom we can all have and it will be nice.”
We know what we want to do.
The Netherlands are rumoured to be a pencilled-in pre-Euros friendly opponent but Clarke was giving nothing away on that front.
“There is always talk and speculation and we have been consistent on this one,” he said.
“We know what we want to do but until we get the go-ahead from the people who make these decisions, there is no point putting out a plan.
“We will keep that one under our hat until we can release it.”
The managers of the Czech Republic, Croatia and England will be kept guessing regarding which position Clarke intends to deploy one of his best players, Scott McTominay, in the group games – the centre of his defence, the centre of his midfield, or a combination of both.
The latter was the case recently, with the Manchester United man dropping into Clarke’s backline against the Faroe Islands after playing his club role in the previous two fixtures.
“I expected to dominate possession,” he said.
“We had something like 65 per cent and when you get possession normally a lot of it is with the back players.
“You have Kieran (Tierney) on one side who can drive out and combine with Andy (Robertson), get past Andy and Andy can sit in for him.
Kieran Tierney and John McGinn combine successfully for the second time tonight, as Scotland double their lead over the Faroe Islands 🏴
Watch live on Sky Sports 📺 pic.twitter.com/Gkyq8symrF
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) March 31, 2021
“So it’s a good combination on that side and Scott gives us good composure on the other side where he can step into midfield and make passes.
“He doesn’t give the ball away too often, so it gives us something else – another way of playing.”
Clarke, whose team are second top of their World Cup section, added: “I think the three games have been good. I see positive signs.
“I know there was a little bit of negativity the other night.
“I tried to squash it because I expected to come here (the Faroes game) and win.
“When you play as well as we did and were atttacking as we were, maybe the team can score goals. Maybe the coach is not just a negative, pragmatic coach.
“You need to know when you can open up and have a go at the opposition and we did that.”