Steve Clarke: ‘It doesn’t matter how you put them in, so long as you do’

Scotland boss proud of comeback win that leaves squad firmly in qualification hunt

 

When Hampden Park eventually stopped reverberating to the epic celebrations that greeted Scotland’s dramatic victory over Israel, there was cause to consider an outcome that may have been written in the stars.

Scott McTominay, signed for Manchester United by Alex Ferguson when aged just eight, bundled home the winner in “Fergie Time”, with the great man looking on from the stands. There was added gloss for McTominay: his first international goal arrived two days before his Scottish grandfather’s birthday.

There is, however, mounting evidence that positive outcomes for Scotland are down to more than acts of fate. A stirring second-half showing against Israel - Scotland were 2-1 down at the break, having missed a penalty - was that of a team with considerable spirit to match talent. McTominay had cheaply given away a free-kick, leading to Israel’s second goal. Jack Hendry, who flicked the ball towards McTominay in the 94th minute, did likewise before the visitors’ first.

“It would have been an easy night to say ‘Everything’s gone against us,’” said Steve Clarke, Scotland’s manager. “But we turned it round, or the players turned it round. We had a good performance in the second half. Jack gets the touch, Scott puts it in with whatever part of his body I’m not quite sure. It wasn’t his hand or his arms so it counts. It doesn’t matter how you put them in, so long as you do.

“I’ve been saying for a long time that this is a group of players who want to do well for their country and want to be successful for their country. And they show it. Every time they go on to the pitch, they show it. And they showed it again in that second half.”

Clarke would have snapped hands off for the position in which he now finds himself. If the Scots beat the Faroe Islands tomorrow and Moldova next month, a World Cup play-off place will be guaranteed. Scotland have encountered infamous struggles in the Faroes before but Clarke dismissed any notion of complacency. A lap of honour undertaken by players at the end of this frenetic win was in front of the first packed Hampden of Clarke’s two-and-a-half-year tenure.

“It was really just a little thank you and a ‘nice to see you again,’” Clarke said. “It’s been a while since this place was rocking like that. I can understand why the players went out there. It was more or less for the players to say thank you to the fans. Then the fans have the chance to say thanks back.

“We’ve already spoken in the dressing room about it. It’s a good night, it’s a good second half, it’s three points. It’s just one more step on the road to Qatar. And that’s what we’ll focus on. The next game we need three more points.”

Lyndon Dykes, who notched Scotland’s penalty winner in Austria in September, will be relieved of spot-kick duties after he watched his effort against Israel saved by Ofir Marciano. “I’ve already told Dykes that he’s not on the next one,” Clarke said. “We’ll decide depending on the starting line-up. We decide from there. It just puts extra pressure on Dykes if he goes to the next one.

“Last month he was the hero, he scored the penalty. I said to the lads at half-time: ‘Just make sure you bail Dykesy out.’ Last month he was the hero, this month he’s missed a penalty.

“No doubt tomorrow, when he’s calmed down a little bit and I’ve calmed down a little bit, he’ll come and ask me to take the next one.”

– Guardian

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