Scotland boss Clarke has ‘100 per cent sympathy’ for Austria

Austrians set to travel to Hampden for World Cup qualifying clash without their German-based players.

Scotland boss Clarke has ‘100 per cent sympathy’ for Austria SNS Group

Scotland manager Steve Clarke has expressed total sympathy with Austria for their selection issues ahead of their Hampden trip next week.

But Clarke insists Scotland made a very fair offer to switch their home World Cup qualifiers around.

Austria are set to be without Bayern Munich defender David Alaba and a host of other German-based players – there were 18 in their most recent squad – because of quarantine rules in their neighbouring country.

Austria decided against requesting a neutral venue or accepting Scotland’s offer to switch fixtures because they hope to have a big crowd when Clarke’s men visit their country in September.

“We have 100 per cent sympathy with the Austrians in the situation they find themselves in,” Clarke said.

“And, to be fair to ourselves, I believe in discussions with UEFA and Austria, we offered to flip the fixtures, which was quite a fair offer because it would have meant we were starting with Austria and Israel away in a tough start.

“But the problem it gave Austria was three home games in March and three away games in September.

“I can see their reasoning, why they didn’t want three games away in September, because we had the same last November. By the time we got to the Israel game, the third game in the road trip, the boys were pretty much emotionally and physically drained.

“So I can understand why they’ve gone the way they’ve chosen to go.

“They must be confident that they can get a strong Austrian team on the pitch even without so many players from Germany.”

Meanwhile, Clarke is hopeful Scotland will get to play Croatia and Czech Republic at Hampden in the Euros.

UEFA will take a decision on venues next month and the governing body has signalled a more hard-line approach to any countries which do not allow crowds.

The Scottish Government has not provided any assurances at this stage but there were signs of optimism as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered an update on the route out of lockdown on Tuesday.

Outdoor events are scheduled to restart from May 17 with details on capacity limits to be confirmed in the next few weeks. And Sturgeon offered hope that life could return to some sort of normality during the summer.

Clarke said: “There seems to be a little bit more hope around the vaccinations. We seem to be getting on top of it that way.

“I got my first vaccination last week so I am in that process. No side effects, everything good.

“I would like to think there will be enough time for the Scottish Government to convince UEFA that there will be a crowd of sorts at Hampden. Will it be a full house? I don’t think so.

“But hopefully we can meet the required amount to make it happen.”

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