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Michael Devlin: 'Steve Clarke needs more time with Scotland'

Michael Devlin: 'Steve Clarke needs more time with Scotland'
© Reuters
Clarke has managed just two wins in his first six games in charge.

Michael Devlin insists time can be the great healer for Scotland as they continue to get to grips with Steve Clarke's tactics.

The former Kilmarnock boss was appointed on the strength of his 19-month stint in charge at Rugby Park.

But the system that led the Ayrshire outfit to a third-place finish in the Ladbrokes Premiership last season – their highest since 1967 – was built upon hour after hour of meticulous work on the training ground.

Clarke, however, does not have that luxury in his new role and the limited contact he has with his players has been apparent through a run of just two wins from his first six games in charge.

But Aberdeen defender Devlin is adamant this week's Euro 2020 qualifying dead-rubbers with Cyprus and Kazakhstan and the time Clarke has to spend with his injury-hit squad will be vital as the boss aims to drill in his masterplan for March's Nations League play-offs.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke has limited time to work with his squad
Scotland manager Steve Clarke has limited time to work with his squad (Andrew Milligan/PA)

"In comparison to what a club manager gets, Steve here has probably had two two-week blocks to work with a squad," said Devlin.

"In a pre-season alone a club manager would have had far more time to work with his squad.

"We need to recognise that there is a limited amount of time but that's also where we are lucky to have a top manager who can get his point across, is eloquent and very direct in what he wants.

"The more time we get, the more squads there are then hopefully we'll see improvement. The players need to take responsibility for what is a clear message being put across to hopefully get results on the pitch."

Clarke's preparations for the upcoming double-header have been struck by a raft of call-offs.

Skipper Andy Robertson has joined Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay, Bournemouth winger Ryan Fraser and Leeds defender Liam Cooper on the casualty list.

The withdrawals have done nothing to lift the mood of gloom sitting over the national team on the back of their failure to qualify directly for next summers finals.

But with the Nations League wild card still up for grabs, Devlin is looking on the bright side.

He said: "It's two games that as a squad and a nation we're excited about. Yeah, OK there's been a couple of call-offs but there's nothing we can do about genuine injuries.

"We have two play-off games to look forward to in March and the generation of players here are desperate to do everything they can to get to the Euros.

"This week's games can be pivotal in building momentum into those games next year. We want to get the country back behind us. It has been an indifferent campaign – there's no getting away from that.

"But we've got two massive games in March to get us where we want to be. We're in as good a position as we've probably been in in recent years and we all need to remember that."

Devlin is likely to partner club team-mate Scott McKenna at the heart of Clarke's back four at some stage during Saturday's Cyprus showdown in Nicosia and the Hampden clash with the Kazakhs on Tuesday.

And he is looking to recreate the solid bond they have formed in the Granite City with Scotland.

He said: "If the two of us are selected to play then hopefully the fact we know each other so well on and off the pitch to hopefully compliment each other and provide a good foundation to the team.

"It would be silly to look ahead to the games in March as there is a lot of club football to be played between then and now and opportunity for change.

"But if we are given that chance then I think the two of us are confident we can get the job done.

"There's a familiarity there with a partnership that has grown from last season. At times we've not had the opportunity to play together as much as we'd like due to injury and other reasons.

"We room together, we're close, we talk and spend a lot of time together so I'm excited about the prospect of playing together for Scotland."

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Scotland's Andrew Robertson gestures during the match against San Marino on October 13, 2019
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