Euro Football

Neighbourly envy drives Scots on for Euro 2020 play-off success

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A bit of neighbourly envy will help fire up Steve Clarke’s squad to qualify for Euro 2020, according to Celtic winger James Forrest.

The Scots had their noses pressed up against the glass as England, Northern Ireland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland all competed at the finals in France in 2018.

It made for a summer of torment and Forrest doesn’t want to be missing out on the next big European football party in a few months’ time.

“We haven’t been in a major tournament for so long,” said the Parkhead forwrad. “And you see players going there with England, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales and we want to make sure that we give our all so that ourselves and the fans can get to one as well.

“A lot of the guys in our squad play their club football alongside team-mates from those nations and they’ve all been told how good it is to be at a finals.

“It’s hard for us to take. You shouldn’t really look at what other countries do but it’s only natural when it’s players you know who are going there.

“It would be unbelievable for all of us if we did get there so we’ll be giving it a right good push. “

Stage one of that right good push will be producing encouraging performances and results in the last two group games against Cyprus and Kazakhstan.

“I think it’s good for the manager to get another couple of games in with us,” said Forrest.

“It will let him have a look at different players for the vital games in March and, hopefully, we can put in a couple of good, positive performances so that we can go into the play-offs with confidence.

“That would be massive for us because we did have some bad results – and a few poor displays – before we beat San Marino. Obviously, we can no longer qualify for the finals through the group.

“We had a hard time in Kazakhstan and the game against Cyprus at Hampden was tight but we need two decent showings here.

“From the very first camp with the manager, it was clear that he knew what he wanted and the players were made aware of that.

“The results haven’t been there yet but it’s good that the squad will be together for longer this time because he’ll be able to do more work with us on the training ground and he’ll be happy with that.”

Scotland’s two top club sides have been excelling in the Europa League and Forrest is hopeful that will benefit the national team.

He said: “The likes of Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie and myself – and Ryan Jack at Rangers – have had a boost with how well our clubs have done in the Europa League this season.

“Even before, when Gordon Strachan or Alex McLeish were in charge, you would always turn up for Scotland with extra belief after your club had a good result in Europe and it’s good that players can bring that into the camp with them.

“It does help – it’s certainly better than turning up on the back of bad results with your club because that can make it harder to pick yourself up.

“We beat Lazio at home and then we went over there and beat them again. Teams like this away are always difficult because you are up against top players.

“When you put in a performance like that hopefully that will help with Scotland as well.

“Scottish football is in a really good place and it has been really positive from Celtic and Rangers over the past couple of weeks.

“That is good to see but we want to make sure it is the same story with Scotland.

“The last couple of trips have not been great but hopefully we can turn it around.”

Forrest has reassured the Tartan Army that his old Celtic team-mate Kieran Tierney’s desire to pull on the dark blue of his country hasn’t diminished now that he is playing his domestic football with Arsenal.

Gunners boss Unai Emery didn’t want Tierney to join up for this camp as he continues his return from an injury lay-off.

Forrest said: “He is certainly committed to Scotland. He played for Scotland at an early age and he has captained Scotland as well.

“KT loves playing for his country but he was out for a while and is just getting back in the fold at Arsenal.

“I think Scotland and Arsenal will both want what is best for KT.

“The main thing for him is just to keep doing what he’s doing at arsenal and be ready for the games in March.”

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