THE DAYS when Scotland had a star-studded line-up are long gone and a succession of managers have tried – in vain – to bring success back to the Tartan Army. Scotland, after a period in which they were regular participants in the World Cup, having had a summer tournament to look forward to since 1998 – that’s five Euros and five World Cups. Steve Clarke, who led Kilmarnock back to European football for the first time since 1966, has been given the job of trying to lift national morale as well as the team in the dark blue shirts.
Trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear has been a task too much for most Scotland managers in recent years. Added to that, though, is that players seem to be less enamoured about turning out for their country, that it is something of a hopeless cause. The Guardian’s Ewan Murray said that, “the new regime must incentivise players by making the Scotland setup appealing”.
Yet there is an upbeat mood around Clarke’s appointment. The Herald commented: “For once there is a genuine sense of optimism coming from the national team. There are problems, but there is no better man to solve them than Steve Clarke.”
The Daily Record added that Clarke sees the role as the pinnacle of his career, even though friends and colleagues warned him that it could be a “career killer”.
After years of disappointment and a decline in standards, Clarke also has to repair the disconnect between the public and Scotland team, said the Guardian’s Murray: “There is a general apathy in Scotland towards the international side. Somehow, Scotland has to learn to fall in love with its national side again.”
Clarke knows he has some PR work to do. “That’s down to my skills as a manager. I have to sell the idea, I have to sell the way we are going to play, the way we going to be in camp.”
He told the Sunday Post what he intends to do: “We want to make them [the fans] proud of their country and their team. We want them to come to the matches and get right behind the team like they always do. It’s dwindled a little bit. But it’s my job to ensure the team is focused. I only want players that are 100 per cent committed to the national team.”
The Times painted a picture of Clarke that will undoubtedly appeal to the fans: “That Steve Clarke has been hugely successful without recourse to the bullshit and vanity that has become almost de rigueur in the modern manager is perhaps one of the reasons why his appointment by the Scottish Football Association has been met with widespread approval.Not only did he work miracles at Kilmarnock, he left his ego at the door and did it with the kind of honesty and hard work that appeals to those in Scotland who know a charlatan when they see one.”
Tom English of BBC Scotland was highly enthused by the appointment. “Clarke is the rarest of beasts – a Scottish FA appointment that is greeted with near unanimous praise, once you take the Killie groans and gnashing of teeth out of the equation. There is no comparison to the embarrassment of the unveiling of Alex McLeish, viewed as it was as some kind of old pals act with his friend, Alan McRae, the president at Hampden.”
English added: “Clarke is a reassuring presence, a strong character, a proven leader. There are no guarantees that he’s going to get Scotland into a major championship but the moment he was announced as the new manager the odds sure did shorten.”
Sources: The Times, Sunday Post, Daily Record, BBC, Guardian.