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Scotland Starting To Make Progress Under Steve Clarke

Date: 23rd November 2019

It was a positive international week in November for Scotland as Steve Clarke’s men won both their encounters in the last of the Euro qualifiers. 

The victories over Cyprus and Kazakhstan made sure that the Scottish national side finished third in their group behind Belgium and Russia, two sides that did really well in last summer’s World Cup

Yes, we’ve experienced tough times. The worst performance happened early as Scotland were humiliated in  Astana. That 3-0 loss signalled the end of Alex McLeish as the Scots boss. The SFA went out and brought in Clarke. He was a coach that probably overachieved at Kilmarnock, helping Killie to finish in third place in the Scottish Premiership last season. 

Steve came in as a boss that could get the most from modest resources, so it was hoped he’d get the most from our squad. 

It wasn’t an easy start as a win over Cyprus was quickly followed with a heavy defeat to the Belgians. They would then lose the next three games (twice to Russia and to Belgium again). Our performances in those outings simply weren’t good enough. We weren’t strong or passionate enough. 

Scotland then thumped San Marino 6-0 at Hampden and followed that up with the two victories this month. 

In those wins, Scotland have looked better. They’ve looked more organised and determined to impose themselves. They didn’t let a Cypriot equaliser dampen our spirits as it did against Russia earlier in the campaign. The side regained their composure and that helped them regain the lead. They then showed heart to dig in and see the result out. 

Ryan Christie has been sensational for Celtic this season and it was good to see him take that form onto the international stage. He scored a great goal in Nicosia and always looked one of our most dangerous outlets on the park. 

The Tartan Army then managed to gain revenge over Kazakstan as they put them to the sword in Glasgow. 

We’ve been waiting for John McGinn to show more for Scotland after his club heroics at Hibs and Aston Villa. I believe that a player needs around 15-20 caps before being up to speed on the international stage. McGinn has really come of age in the last twelve months, scoring seven times in these qualifiers (all in 2019). He grabbed three more in the two recent triumphs. He seems to know now that he needs to burst forward and help out our lone marksman. 

Potentially we have a really strong group of central midfielders and McGinn could be the catalyst that sees us getting more from our engine room. 

We still had nervy moments in the heart of defence but it was good to see our full-backs having a good week. Third choice left-back Greg Taylor looked very dependable and encouragingly Liam Palmer looked very impressive in the right-back slot. We really need a consistent performer to come in at right-back, so it could be great if Palmer can keep up his recent run. 

Scotland always look stronger when they have an experienced frontman leading the line. Steven Naismith was great, especially when you consider that the Hearts man has missed so much football due to injury this season. He worked his socks off in the last week and deservedly grabbed a goal at Hampden. 

It’s nice to see Scotland finally processing under Steve Clarke. We now know that we have to beat Israel in our play-off before taking on either Norway or Serbia to get into next summer’s Euros. If we can keep progressing then two more wins can be achieved and we might finally see the Tartan Army back at a major tournament! 

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