Steve Clarke and Scotland have much to ponder after Ireland thrashing

Scotland went down 3-0 to Republic of Ireland in the Nations League on Saturday night.

Nations League: Steve Clarke and Scotland have much to ponder after Republic of Ireland thrashing SNS Group

“It can’t be one good performance, then one bad performance, that’s not what we’ve built under this manager and that’s what we need to get back to.” 

The words of Scotland captain Andy Robertson after Saturday night’s doing in Dublin, admitting the performance offered little to be positive about.

Steve Clarke’s reign has been built on consistency, both in squad selection and, until recently, results. Six wins in a row at the end of last year was the best winning streak since 1930.

But something has changed and no one can quite put their finger on it.

Kieran Tierney’s absence is clearly a huge blow. End of season fatigue may have played a part. 

But Clarke refused to use those factors as a reason for the flat, insipid performances turned in against Ukraine and Ireland.

Defensive errors, poor passing and no cutting edge. 

The manager admitted there was much to analyse, but insisted his tactics and team selection were not to blame.

Tuesday’s game in Armenia, which rounds off this run of fixtures, is now one Scotland must win to keep alive chances of winning this Nations League group. 

Some of the Tartan Army are already on their way to Yerevan, while those left behind in Dublin were nursing sore heads and wounded pride.

They arrived in the city full of confidence that Scotland could pile the pressure on an Ireland side which hadn’t won a competitive game at home in three years. 

Locals and tourists were serenaded with cries of “we’ve got McGinn” as the kilted brigade made a valiant attempt to drink the bars dry in the Irish capital.

But once inside the Aviva stadium, it was a very sobering experience. Jeers from the away end at the final whistle was the first real sign of discontent in Clarke’s time in charge.

A bond has been built between this squad and the supporters, cemented by the qualification for the Euros and strengthened during a World Cup campaign that took the nation to the play-offs. 

But the disappointment of Ukraine, last night’s result and, perhaps more importantly, performance has caused in cracks in that relationship and work is needed to win back their affection.

The team will remain in Dublin until setting off for Armenia on Monday. And, in a city known for its great thinkers, there’s plenty to ponder. 

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