Scotland manager Steve Clarke has urged his fringe players to use today’s encounter with Cyprus to prove they deserve a spot in March’s pivotal Euro 2020 play-offs.
The national team heads into their double-header against the Cypriots and Kazakhstan in Group I with only pride to play for after their hopes of progressing from the group ended with a 4-0 loss in Russia.
The Scots take on Cyprus without a number of key players, including captain Andy Robertson, Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay and Bournemouth winger Ryan Fraser, while Arsenal also requested that Kieran Tierney was excused from the squad, despite playing regularly for his club following hip surgery.
The national team have a second chance to make Euro 2020, earned by winning their Nations League group, with two huge play-off matches to take place next year and Clarke believes the upcoming double-header offers an opportunity for others to prove they deserve to be in the team in March.
He said: “It was frustrating at the start when you name the squad and then you get the call-offs. I am learning quickly that in this job you have to move on.
“I have 23 players who want to be here and a part of what we are doing. They have all trained well this week and I will concentrate on those 23.
“We have got two games before the March play-offs.
“Anybody who is in this camp has a great chance to catch my attention and make sure they are in the squad in March.
“They have the chance to make themselves a pick by doing well in these two games. If they do well in these two games then there is every chance they will be involved in March.”
With Robertson missing today’s match through injury, Clarke refused to confirm who would don the armband in Nicosia this afternoon.
Steven Naismith could get the honour if he is handed his 50th cap, while Aberdeen defender Scott McKenna and Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor have previous experience of captaining the national side.
Clarke added: “I will keep that one under wraps until the game.
“It will depend on team selection and I’m not going to give out the team today.
“As a manager and even as a player, I have always felt that everyone in the dressing room should be a leader.
“Everyone should try to take on a part of the captain’s role. It is not something that should be just down to one person.
“You want as many leaders and positive people in the camp as you can.
“That is what we are trying to build here.”