Steve Clarke: Managing Scotland would be an honour – we have the players to reach Euro 2020
STEVE Clarke last night admitted it would be an honour to be asked to manage Scotland – and insisted there are enough quality players in the national set-up to reach the Euro 2020 finals.
Clarke, who has worked wonders at Kilmarnock since being appointed at Rugby Park last season, has been installed as one of the favourites to succeed Alex McLeish, who was sacked by the SFA on Thursday.
The former Aston Villa, Chelsea and Liverpool assistant and West Brom and Reading manager has been linked with a move to Fulham this week and yesterday he reiterated that he would like to work down south again in the future.
The 55-year-old, a former right back who won six caps for his country in the 1980s and 1990s, also stated that he enjoyed day-to-day involvement with players, something he would be deprived of in international football.
However, Clarke, whose Kilmarnock side is third in the Ladbrokes Premiership and bidding to qualify for Europe for the first time in 17 years this year, also refused to rule out the possibility of taking over Scotland.
Asked if he thought the manager’s post had been diminished by years of failure to qualify for a major tournament finals, he said: “Absolutely not. Whoever is lucky enough to get the job, it should be an honour for them, especially if they’re Scottish.”
Asked if he would like to be Scotland manager, Clarke said: “Yeah at some stage. But I haven’t thought about the job. My job is here at Kilmarnock.
“I feel I have unfinished business in English football. I’d love another crack at it. Whether it is this season, next season or the season after, I don’t know.”
But Clarke expressed the belief, with players like James Forrest, Ryan Fraser, Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay, Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney involved in the national set-up, Scotland are good enough to reach the Euro 2020 finals next summer.
“I think there are tools to work with there,” he said. “At the moment there’s a very negative environment around the national team and whoever gets the job would have to change that perception.
“The only way to do that is to work hard with the players available to you and get positive results on the pitch.
“It’s like any other job. When I came in here it was all doom and gloom – the fans weren’t enjoying coming to Rugby Park and they weren’t enjoying watching their team.
“Winning matches and picking up points changes that and now there’s a really good feel around the place. It’s a pleasure to come to home games because you can sense the buzz from the fans, who get right behind the team and everyone is happy again. That has to happen with Scotland.
“I absolutely believe we have enough talent to be competitive. You have to look at other countries of similar size and stature to ours and who have similar players; they manage to reach major tournaments.
“You have to go into every job, league season or qualifying campaign with positive ambitions otherwise there’s no point in doing it.
“If I’d come here and thought ‘I hope we finish 10th’ and we aimed for that then we could have finished 11th or 12th; you’re better aiming to finish first and, if you fall short, you might end up in third place. That’s the way it is.”
Clarke could move back to England, where his wife and family are based and where he has admitted he is keen to return one day, if he took on the Scotland job.
He said: “That’s one side of it. But you spend an awful lot of time (as Scotland manager) sitting watching football matches instead of coaching on the pitch, which is one of the parts of the job I love. I love working with players on the grass, whether it’s real or artificial. I like that day-to-day involvement.”