In these turbulent times for football, Scotland’s national team is on the brink of a historic achievement. Their journey to Euro 2024 has been characterized by passion, dedication, and a standout figure who has guided them with unwavering commitment – Steve Clarke.
As Scotland prepared for their crucial Euro 2024 qualifier in Spain, one couldn’t help but notice a glaring absence. Steve Clarke’s name, the man who’s masterminded Scotland’s resurgence, was nowhere to be found in discussions about managerial vacancies, particularly at Rangers. While Rangers seek to recover from the disappointingly brief tenure of Michael Beale, the enigmatic Clarke remains overlooked.
Clarke possesses an arsenal of professional attributes that would be a perfect match for a Rangers side in search of stability. His pragmatism, deep understanding of Scottish football, exceptional organizational skills, and the ability to instill the right blend of fear and respect in his players make him an ideal candidate. The common notion that Scotland boasts a superior talent pool today compared to past decades is debatable; it’s Clarke’s work that has truly set them apart. He might be humble, but his credentials speak volumes in the realm of club football.
In the backdrop of this story lies an episode from February 2019 when Clarke took a principled stand against sectarian abuse he faced while in charge of Kilmarnock. Rangers’ chairman, Dave King, swiftly issued an apology, but a section of the Rangers faithful still harbors resentment. It’s safe to say the feeling is mutual.
This unfortunate episode continues to deny Rangers the opportunity to acquire a manager with a wealth of experience and substance. Clarke’s management style draws parallels with that of a Rangers legend, Walter Smith, who orchestrated a remarkable revival for the club.
Yet, remarkably, there hasn’t been any serious discussion about Clarke returning to Ibrox. Instead, the focus remains on Scotland’s tactical choices. Losing Kieran Tierney is a massive blow, as he is not just a center-half but also a catalyst for Scotland’s attacking endeavors. Without a like-for-like replacement, Clarke might have to revert to a back four.
The task ahead in Spain is formidable. Spain has scored 13 goals in their last two outings. But hope stirs in the memory of a 2-0 victory over Spain in Glasgow, a result born of an outstanding performance with and without the ball. It’s the kind of football that Scotland should embrace without hesitation.
The more realistic path to Euro 2024 glory comes on Sunday when Scotland faces Norway. If Norway fails to defeat Spain, Scotland secures its finals berth. An alternate scenario, with Spain and then Norway winning, would put Scotland in a precarious position for the first time in this section.
However, Clarke refuses to accept the fatalistic approach. He understands that this Scotland team is different; it has not only met expectations but exceeded them. There’s a renewed belief, driven by the disappointment of the last European Championship, that this team can aim high.
Clarke’s approach to the Elliot Anderson saga exemplifies Scotland’s position. The young Newcastle United midfielder may ultimately choose to represent England, and Clarke respects that. New players are always welcomed, yet no pressure should be applied to those who prefer not to play right away.
Spain, despite their drop in FIFA rankings, still presents a formidable challenge. Their quest for redemption could delay Scotland’s inevitable rise. The only concern is that the footballing world may wake up to the value of Steve Clarke’s work before Scotland reaches the summit. Scotland’s quest for Euro 2024 qualification continues, guided by a manager who is truly a difference-maker.