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Steve Clarke sets eyes on a second major tournament after signing extended Scotland deal

Steve Clarke.
Steve Clarke.

Steve Clarke is intent on leading Scotland to a second major tournament by the time his newly-extended contract expires.

Clarke has signed a new deal which will keep him in charge of the national team for the Euro 2024 qualifying bid.

It follows his success in steering the Scots to the Euro 2020 finals earlier this summer, where they competed in their first major tournament for 23 years.

Clarke’s refusal to consider that achievement as mission accomplished was the driving force behind him agreeing a new deal, with the Scots in the midst of their qualifying campaign for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

Steve Clarke.

Having become national team boss in 2019, Clarke says his extended deal gives him two further attempts to build on the history he has already created.

Clarke said: “You come in as Scotland head coach, you get the two tournaments and basically your brief is that you’ve got to qualify.

“It was nice to get the first one and get the qualification done.

“The reason for extending was just getting another tournament to keep it at two tournaments.

“We got that monkey off our back and it’s now time to do that more consistently.

“I have two tournaments to try and do that.

“I look back two years to when I come in and compare that to where we were in the summer – involved in a tournament with an improved squad getting more experience.

“Andy Robertson is approaching 50, even players like Stephen O’Donnell are approaching 25.

“We are gaining more experience and we have improved a lot.

“It was relatively straight forward to try and improve on the work we have done so far.

“And I think improving now will probably be more difficult than improving from where we have been.”

Clarke says talks over his new deal accelerated quickly following Scotland’s exit from the group stage of the Euros, adding: “It took me about a week to come down.

“The ending of a tournament is brutal. You go to the game and you have plans for the next game.

“We came here with a realistic chance of getting a result against Croatia that would put us through.

“At the end of that game it’s back to the team hotel, a couple of beers, shake everybody’s hands and then they are scattering all over the place.

“It took me about a week when I just went home. I chilled out and then started thinking about what I was going to do in the future.

“I’ve got to be honest. My thoughts were about the World Cup and trying to get to Qatar.

“I then had a little chat with my bosses here and decided a contract extension would be a good idea.”

Clarke’s new deal is accompanied by a shake-up in his backroom team, with assistant Steven Reid and goalkeeping coach Stevie Woods moving on due to club and family commitments.

The Scotland boss has moved to bring in former Hearts assistant Austin MacPhee, who has left his role with Northern Ireland to join Clarke’s team. MacPhee is currently working as Premier League club Aston Villa’s set-piece coach.

Austin MacPhee.

Coming in as goalkeeping coach is former England and Rangers goalkeeper Chris Woods, who has worked at clubs such as Everton, Manchester United and West Ham United along with the United States national team.

Clarke added: “It’s difficult but it also gives me an opportunity to try something different. Bringing in someone like Austin will help us.

“He went to Aston Villa as a specialist set-piece coach.

“He comes to me as a coach but obviously I can utilise that knowledge he has of that area of the game.

“He did very well when he went to the Danish club, Midtjylland.

“Then Villa recognised the he was bringing something to the game that was different. It’s an area – when Steven Reid and I would talk with John Carver – we’d discuss it.

“We used to speak about scoring more off set-plays because at this level it can be absolutely crucial.

“Also, we also have to stop conceding off set-plays.

“The first goal against the Czech Republic came from the third phase of a set-play.

“If we can improve our organisation and our ability to defend in those situations then it’ll make us a bigger threat to score off set-plays.

“That could see us pick up the two or three extra points that we need to qualify.”