John Carver believes the current Scotland squad is the ‘most focused’ he has worked with – and says they won’t be distracted by anything ahead of their Euro 2024 qualifying clash with Cyprus.
Four wins from four games have Scotland at the top of Group A and another three points would see them take a significant step towards next year’s finals in Germany.
If Scotland win in Larnaca on Friday night, the right combination of results elsewhere could even see qualification secured next Tuesday, while Steve Clarke and his player’s are facing England in friendly at Hampden.
Despite the significance of the fixture and the talk around it, Carver says the players have a single-minded focus on their opposition and how to win the game in front of them.
“We have not even discussed England or anything outside the game on Friday night against Cyprus,” he said.
“We have to put all our energy into the game. We have to stay humble and show humility.
“Going into this game is all about hard work, preparation, players being focused and making sure all our efforts are going into this game.
“The players are very level-headed so they don’t listen to the outside noise, and that’s important. And we encourage that.
“As a group of staff and players we have had some big games recently and they always say the next game is the biggest, and it is. But it’s not about ‘can we qualify on Friday night?’
“We haven’t done anything yet, it’s only the halfway stage, there are still four games to go and you know how quickly it can turn in football.”
Carver, who was three-times caretaker boss of Newcastle United, managed Omonia Nicosia and worked at Leeds United and Sheffield United among others, says Scotland’s players stand out form other groups he has worked with and “police themselves” to keep minds on the task at hand.
He said: “You know what? In all my years of working with football teams, this is the most focused group of people I have worked with.
“That’s an honour for those guys because I have worked with some good teams and good players, but these guys are right on it.
Looking at the guys when they came through the door and in training, they are really focused.
“When you have got a good group of guys and enjoy being together, they police themselves and we just make sure we put the right things on and do the right things in preparation.
“Of course it’s really exciting but you can’t get ahead of yourselves, you have to make sure you are in the right frame of mind going into the game.
“If we do what we do well, if our organisation is good, if we work hard, if we do all the dirty things well, then it gives us a great opportunity.”
Having worked at Omonia Nicosia, Carver has plenty experience of Cyprus and the environment Scotland will be going into. And after studying the teams’ recent internationals, he stressed it wasn’t going to be an easy night for Andy Robertson, John McGinn and company.
“We have said on a number of occasions how tough the game is going to be,” he explained. “On the previous three occasions against Scotland there’s been one goal in it.
“But they have also had some decent results and performances, their performance against Armenia, winning in Israel, which is extremely tough, because we found it tough out there, and losing in the last minute against Georgia.
“I know Cypriot football pretty well and the standard’s got much better in recent times.
“Normally the crowd are quite intimidating but it’s more families and children who go and watch the national team. So the most important thing will be the heat. It will be hot, the pitch will probably be dry, so it’s something we will have to deal with.
“But we are in great conditions here at the moment and we are acclimatising to it.”