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After injury and Euro 2020 hell Scotland midfielder Ryan Jack targets World Cup dream

Scotland's Ryan Jack in action during the friendly against Poland at Hampden.
Scotland's Ryan Jack in action during the friendly against Poland at Hampden.

Scotland midfielder Ryan Jack aims to put his injury and Euro 2020 hell behind him by reaching the 2022 World Cup.

The Scots are scheduled to face Ukraine in a delayed World Cup play-off semi-final for the right to face Wales in the final.

The play-off has been delayed due to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and there are fears it may not be played until September.

Jack is back in Scotland squad after 10 months on the sidelines following surgery on an ankle problem.

The former Aberdeen skipper suffered the agony of missing out on Euro 2020 – Scotland’s first appearance at a tournament in 23 years.

Rangers midfielder Jack had played a key role in securing Euro 2020 qualification.

The 30-year-old played all 120 minutes of the play-off final penalty shoot-out defeat of Serbia that secured a Euro 2020 spot.

Aberdonian Jack admits the time on the sidelines was the toughest of his career.

He used returning to the Scotland squad, and pushing for the World Cup, as targets during his rehabilitation.

Ryan Jack in action for Scotland against Sebastian Szymanski (17) of Poland.

Scotland return against Poland

Jack was introduced as a second half substitute in the 1-1 draw with Poland at Hampden on Thursday.

It was his first Scotland appearance since a 1-0 Nations League loss to Israel in November 2020.

He is in contention to earn a 12th cap in Tuesday’s friendly against Austria.

Ryan Jack (r) comes on for Callum McGregor for his first international appearance since 2020.

Jack said: “It’s good to be back as it had been a long time.

“There’s no doubt it was probably the toughest time I’ve had in my career.

“I always use disappointments to react and respond.

“For me there will be no better way to do that than helping the squad try to get to the World Cup.

“That is the aim,

“It will be tough as Ukraine are a very good side, as are Wales.

“We have a great squad of players and we have done it before in getting to a major tournament.

“I don’t see why not.”

Poland’s Sebastian Szymanski (l) battles with Scotland’s Ryan Jack during the 1-1 friendly draw.

‘It was bad news after bad news’

Jack had surgery to fix a persistent calf problem in May last year, just a month before the Euro 2020 finals began.

The midfielder, who made 249 appearances for Aberdeen, had not played since February 21, 2021.

He finally returned to action when introduced as a second half substitute in Rangers 4-2 defeat of Ross County on November 7.

Ryan Jack replaces Callum McGregor during the friendly with Poland at Hampden.

Jack said: “It was bad news after bad news.

“Then, after playing a part in getting to the Euros I had to watch from the side.

“Don’t get me wrong, I was at the (Euro 2020) games and the boys did very well.

“It was a tough time but you get through by focusing on the goals ahead.

“One of the goals for me was to one day get back in the Scotland squad and play a part.

“I have managed that and hopefully I can help contribute to good results.”

Focus through long rehabilitation

Jack played a pivotal role in Rangers’ Premiership title win last season but had to miss out on the run in due to his calf problem.

That frustration was further compounded by being absent from Euro 2020.

Scotland’s Ryan Jack (l) and Stuart Armstrong (R) during a Scotland training session ahead of the Poland friendly.

He said: “You have different ways of keeping focused.

“I was in long days with gym and bike sessions until late in the day.

“Away from that it was finding ways to refresh my mind and get some downtime.

“Such as FaceTime with my family. There are different ways to get through it.”

Focus on World Cup 2022 play-off

Scotland are just two wins away from a first appearance at a World Cup finals in 24 years.

Discussions are ongoing on a new date for the play-off against Ukraine, with the Nations League window in June initially suggested

Scotland and Ukraine are already scheduled to clash at Hampden in a Nations League tie on  June 7.

Both nations are also set to play three other Nations League matches in that window.

However, Scotland boss Steve Clarke recently said the play-off with Ukraine could be as late as September.

After missing out on Euro 2020 Jack is desperate to reach the World Cup.

It is a hunger shared by his team-mates who experienced playing in a major tournament last summer.

Jack said: “The lads have had the taste of going to a major tournament and want to have those big games.

“We can use these games as build up and preparation so that in June we know the way we want to play.

“The manager can drip feed all that into us so that come June we are ready to go.”

Feel-good factor under boss Clarke

Next up for Scotland is a friendly against Austria at the Ernst Happel stadium in Vienna on Tuesday evening.

The Scots were on course for a seventh successive win when leading Poland until  Krzysztof Piatek’s controversial stoppage-time penalty.

Jack is targeting a win in Austria to keep the positive momentum ahead of what will hopefully be a play-off clash with Ukraine in June.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke
Scotland manager Steve Clarke during the 1-1 draw with Poland.

He said: “The manager has brought that feel good to it (the squad).

“Everyone has a good laugh and there is good banter flying about.

“So far under the manager it has been successful and as players we want to continue that and keep bringing it forward.”

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