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Steve Clarke: 'Big players will overcome Scotland's tournament inexperience'

Steve Clarke: 'Big players will overcome Scotland's tournament inexperience'
© Reuters
Some of Steve Clarke's squad were not even born the last time Scotland took part in a major finals, at the World Cup in France in 1998.

Scotland head coach Steve Clarke is confident his big-game players can compensate for a lack of tournament experience.

Some of Clarke’s squad were not even born the last time Scotland took part in a major finals, at the World Cup in France in 1998.

Scotland begin their Euro 2020 campaign on Monday against a Czech Republic side making their seventh consecutive appearance at the European Championship finals. They then take on tournament regulars England and World Cup runners-up Croatia.

But Clarke believes his players have what it takes to handle facing national teams with more relevant recent experience.

“One of my assistants, Steven Reid, went to the World Cup with his country, so he has some experience, he will be able to share that with the players,” Clarke said.

“We have also got a lot of big-game players. Andy Robertson has played in World Championships, he has won the Champions League. Billy Gilmour was involved with Chelsea a couple of weeks ago in the Champions League (final). Scott McTominay played in a European final. I have coached a team in the final of the Champions League myself.

“We understand big games, big moments. Big games are for big players and we believe we have enough big players to handle the occasion.”

Players such as Billy Gilmour, centre, have had big-game experience with their clubs
Players such as Billy Gilmour, centre, have had big-game experience with their clubs (Nick Potts/PA)

Clarke’s side showed they could do that when upsetting the odds against Serbia in Belgrade to end their exile from the big arena and he senses the same sort of confidence in his men.

“I think so,” he said. “It’s always difficult to gauge the mood, obviously it’s a big, big tournament.

“The players have been working hard towards it, to get there. Hopefully they can produce the same performance or a similar performance to what they produced in Serbia that night because we played very well.

“And I think that stands us in good stead for the tournament. If your big players turn up on the big occasion, then you always have a chance.”

Scotland celebrate qualification
Scotland celebrate qualification in Serbia (Novak Djurovic/PA)

Clarke is not one to get carried away and the former Chelsea defender will aim to transmit his composure to his players ahead of Monday’s momentous occasion at Hampden.

“When you qualify for the first time in 23 years, you probably feel a little less pressure,” he said. “We have done well to be in the tournament.

“We are looking forward to it, we are going to give it our all in every single game and we are going to try to make the next step to the knockout stages, which would be a first.

“The country, the Tartan Army can get carried away. They can get over-excited for us.

“We have to be excited to be involved in the tournament for the first time in a long time, but we have to keep an emotional control so that when we do get to the match, we play to our full potential.

“I try to keep the games for what they are. I always try to prepare in the same way for games. I have been quite methodical throughout my career approaching matches.

“I try to follow the same process through the training, the same process through the team meetings that we have. And I will follow the same process on Monday. Hopefully that is enough to get us off to a good start in the tournament.”

Clarke’s final message to the players on Monday afternoon will be equally reassuring.

“Go and enjoy yourself, enjoy the game,” he said. “Normally when players are relaxed, they play well.

“So we try to keep them calm, keep them relaxed, and I tell them to go and enjoy the moment.”

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