Clarke understands why Scotland players are nervous before Euro 2024

Scotland ended a seven-match run without a victory with a 2-0 win over Gibraltar.

Steve Clarke understands why Scotland players are nervous before Euro 2024 SNS Group

Steve Clarke believes pre-tournament nerves were a factor in his Scotland team’s less-than-convincing 2-0 warm-up win over Gibraltar.

Scotland ended a seven-match run without a victory and some players got much-needed game time in Faro on Monday.

But a 58-minute wait to get the opening goal led to some tension inside the Estadio Algarve.

Although the Tartan Army showed no sign of dissent or frustration, they grew increasingly quiet before Ryan Christie opened the scoring, before an emphatic finish from Che Adams allowed them the chance to turn up the volume again.

Scotland missed a series of early chances, the best of which fell to defender Grant Hanley, while James Forrest and Kenny McLean also had good opportunities.

Lawrence Shankland was off target with a couple of half-chances and the opportunities began to dry up somewhat before Christie finished from close range.

Clarke said: “I think it comes down a little bit to confidence. People are searching for confidence.

“Shanks didn’t really have any clear-cut chances where you are thinking, ‘go on, he’s getting there’.

“It’s maybe something we need to look at – his positioning, especially on set-plays where he was maybe too far out from the centre of goal. There are always things you can look at.

“What can we do about it? Keep practising in training.

“Don’t forget these players are nervous. They have the biggest tournament coming up for the country next week. They all have half a mind on Germany already.

“It sounds terrible to say that, but that’s just the way it is. It’s natural. They want to go on the plane, flying to Germany for the Euros and they are involved in what’s going to be a fantastic tournament in the summer, so you have to make allowances for that.

“People won’t think of that. They just think of the excitement etc. But until you are actually on the plane and on the way to Germany there is always a doubt in the back of your mind.”

Scotland lost Lyndon Dykes to a training-ground injury last week and there were concerns when Liam Cooper limped off in Faro, although he is expected to brush off a knee knock.

“Probably what happened with Lyndon on the training pitch the other day spooked them a little bit as well,” Clarke said. “You have to understand. They are human, they have emotions like everybody else.”

The former Kilmarnock manager added: “The pitch was really sticky and I’m not going to dress it up. We should have passed the ball a little bit better but it was really sticky. We have been training all week on wet pitches with the ball and it wasn’t a pitch you could dribble on.

“So lots of chances – and a little bit more quality required.”

Clarke will continue pondering the make-up of his final 26-man squad and might even confirm it after Scotland’s final friendly against Finland at Hampden on Friday night.

“It’s quite a tricky one to be honest because you can put the team in at midnight on Friday,” he said.

“You could tell someone on Thursday they are not going and then we pick up an injury on the Friday and you have to give them a cuddle and say, ‘I love you, you’re going’.

“It’s strange that they make us do it like this. But we will find a way.

“I will be speaking to the players concerned if they are not going to be in the 26 before the Friday game.

“Maybe you guys won’t find out until after the Friday game.”

Stuart Armstrong, Scott McTominay, Ben Doak and John Souttar did not feature against Gibraltar as they work their way back from injury but they are scheduled to be involved against the Finns.

Clarke said: “We will assess who played, the minutes they got, whether they feel they need a few more minutes, but it will be a little bit closer to a more familiar Scotland team under my tutelage.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code