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Steve Clarke heartened by midfield options as Scotland boss eyes Billy Gilmour replacement

Scotland head coach Steve Clarke on the touchline at Wembley.
Scotland head coach Steve Clarke on the touchline at Wembley.

Steve Clarke was dealt a hand he neither wanted or needed yesterday. But it may well be one he was prepared for.

The news that Billy Gilmour had contracted Covid-19 was a harsh reminder of the backdrop Euro 2020 plays out in front of.

While Gilmour, a prodigious talent at 20, may have revelled in the game of his life on Friday night against England, it did not make him immune to the virus which has affected so many around the world.

Clarke wishes the youngster well and hopes he comes back to play as soon as possible. Gilmour was understandably upset at being told he would miss out on Scotland’s biggest game in many a year.

But the head coach has a glut of options to choose from to replace Gilmour, with the midfield one of Scotland’s strongest areas.

“First and foremost I’m upset for Billy,” said Clarke. “The doc and Graeme Jones had to have a very difficult conversation with him when the test came back positive. I obviously spoke with him as well and, as you’d expect, he’s very upset.

“But it’s just the times we are in. You have to adapt and deal with it and that’s what we’ll do.

“I do have good options and that’s the beauty of the squad we have here. That’s actually one of the things I was going to use as part of my build-up to the Croatia game.

Scotland boss Steve Clarke (left) with Billy Gilmour against Luxembourg.
Scotland boss Steve Clarke (left) with Billy Gilmour against Luxembourg.

“Obviously we had a recovery day after the game at Wembley and two recovery days for the boys who played.

“So on the Sunday training session we had the 13 boys who weren’t involved against England, and the standard was of such an unbelievable quality that I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, these boys didn’t even get on the pitch against England!’

“That’s the strength of the group that we have now. We have a fantastic group who are all working ever so hard.

“Listen, you don’t get the togetherness, the camaraderie and the type of team performances that we’ve been getting without that kind of effort from the lads who are not getting as many minutes on the pitch.

“They’ve got to be the opposition when you line up at training. They’ve got to be the ones who drive the guys who are starting. It’s easy to be a starter – it’s not so easy to be a squad player – and the mentality of these squad players and the strength in our group is there for everyone to see.

“I felt fantastic after I watched that training session. They were absolutely outstanding and that’s what gives me hope that, no matter who I pick, he’ll come into the team and do fine. That’s what we want.”

Billy Gilmour is out of Scotland’s Euro 2020 clash with Croatia.

Protocols not just around the Scotland camp but in the Euros overall are sure to come under close scrutiny after the Gilmour case.

His Chelsea colleagues Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount are isolating as a precaution, following the England-Scotland game on Friday night.

“Well hopefully we need to tighten them up for the next week because that means we’re still involved in the tournament,” added Clarke.

“But we follow all the protocols. We wear our masks at the right time, we wash our hands all the time and have bottles of sanitiser around the place. We do everything we can within the context of a global pandemic  and a virus that you can’t see.

“People all over the world have caught this virus, so it’s not something you can legislate for. What I don’t want to do is sit here and talk about catching Covid. I want to talk about playing Croatia.”

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