Steve Clarke is likely to have some sleepless nights before selecting his final Euro 2024 squad, according to Scotland coach John Carver.
The national team have secured their place at next season’s finals in Germany and will learn the identity of their group stage opponents at the competition draw on December 2.
The countdown to the tournament has already started though, and while Scotland play their remaining qualifiers against Georgia and Norway over the next week, some are already looking ahead to next summer and pondering who will make the cut for the squad that travels to Germany.
The group that has assembled to travel for Thursday’s match in Tbilisi is already missing some players through injury, including captain Andy Robertson and Real Sociedad defender Kieran Tierney, offering some others a chance to impress.
Carver believes the chance to make the finals will have every eligible player striving to show their best every week from now until next June in the hope of catching the manager’s eye, and the coaching staff will be on the lookout for anyone who can force their way into contention.
The coach says the quality the Scotland manager has to choose from already means he will have difficult decisions to ponder.
“Hopefully they’re all going to play well with their clubs, which will help their clubs and is their bread and butter, but hopefully it will help us in selection,” Carver said.
“If somebody is playing really well, then it becomes easier to make that decision.
“I’m sure Steve will have some sleepless nights from now until having to pick the squad but that’s what he wants.
“That’s why he’s in the game and why we do what we do. We want to have to make difficult decisions.
“We want players to force the issue and make it even harder for us. There’s going to be disappointment [for some players] at the end of it but there’s a long time from now until the Championships and a lot of time will pass.
“Players will get injured, players will come into form but the decision will be made and it will be made for the best interests of the team.”
With Che Adams forced to miss the double-header, Hearts forward Lawrence Shankland has returned to the squad and is one of the players who will be looking to convince the coaching staff he can play an important role in attack.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for him,” he said. “In the past, we’ve had players who have stepped in at the last moment and taken their opportunity. I can use Ryan Porteous as one.
“We went to Ukraine having to get a point in the Nations League, Ryan stepped in (for his debut) and was outstanding, and he’s never looked back since. That happened for him and there’s an opportunity for Lawrence.
“He’s in good form, scoring goals for Hearts, which is important. He’ll want to be on that plane in the 23-man squad. It’s a competitive squad. We know what he can do, but this is an extra opportunity for him over the next seven days because he didn’t expect to be here.”
And Carver also highlighted the impressive performances Lewis Ferguson has put in for Bologna this season, saying that he was not only showcasing his ability but proving his strength in a physically demanding environment.
Ultimately, Clarke doesn’t need to make a call on his final 23 until seven days before the opening match and Carver said there would be lots of analysis done before then, and even a search for new faces who could lift the team and take the competition to a new level.
“We’ll be on the road every weekend watching these guys play,” he said. “We’ll be making sure that we don’t miss a thing and trying to find the next player or the guy who is pushing himself up from the under-21s.
“So there’s a lot of hard work still to be done. Actually, in all honesty, we’re putting the Euros on the back burner a little bit because we know we’ve got time in this camp, and certainly in March, in preparation for that tournament.
“We’ve done it, we’ve qualified, we’ve put it in the corner for the time being and we’re concentrating on how we can make improvements.”
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