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Duncan Shearer: Two abysmal losses – but it would be a MAD move to axe Steve Clarke as Scotland manager

Scotland manager Steve Clarke.
Scotland manager Steve Clarke.

Scotland were miles off it on Saturday – but it’s madness to be suggesting Steve Clarke’s job is at risk.

We’ve had two morale-sapping defeats in the last there matches, but I cannot believe some people are sharpening the knives for the manager already.

As kneejerk moves go, this would be right up there with the best of them.

The last two years have been pretty good if you are a Scotland fan.

Compared to some of the campaigns we’ve had since the World Cup in 1998, I’d say the last couple of years have been fantastic in comparison.

Ireland were very good and Scotland were very poor. It was a perfect storm and it left us with a chastening 3-0 loss in Dublin.

With it coming on the back of the World Cup play-off loss to Ukraine at Hampden, it’s easy to feel frustrated.

But let’s not go throwing the baby out with the bathwater just yet.

Players looked jaded against Ireland

Scotland's Andy Robertson on the football pitch
Scotland’s Andy Robertson has had a marathon season for club and country

I was told regularly as a player tiredness is not an excuse, but I played in a different era. I remember being at Chelsea in 1983 and I had 10 weeks off in between seasons.

These days it feels if football is a 12-month vocation.

Maybe our players are not tired. But there’s certainly a few looking jaded at the end of long seasons with their clubs.

Andy Robertson is a prime example of that. Our captain has played nearly every game for Liverpool in what was a mammoth season for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

No matter what job you do, you are not at the peak of your powers every single working day and it is worth remembering tonight’s match in Armenia will be the fourth in a fortnight for these guys.

Some of these players will be reporting back to their clubs after the game for the start of pre-season.

It has become a never-ending cycle of training and playing.

That’s why I question whether the squad should have been rotated more and some of the choices which have been made.

I’ve never been convinced by Scott McTominay in a back three and he really struggled against Ukraine at Hampden in the play-off semi-final.

For me, the absence of Kieran Tierney has highlighted the Manchester United midfielder’s vulnerability in a back three.

Important to recognise the progress made

We’re all expert managers from the sidelines watching our team and being critical of Scotland is easy.

After all, we’ve lost two high-profile important matches this month.

But let’s not get carried away and ignore the steps we’ve taken.

We were unbeaten for eight matches before facing Ukraine and everyone can see the progress we have made in the last couple of years.

The fact we view ourselves as genuine contenders for qualification for major tournaments again shows that we’re heading in the right direction.

Defeat in Dublin on Saturday was a setback for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it was an opportunity missed to knock the Republic of Ireland out of the running in our Nations League group.

Second, and most important, we’ve left ourselves with little margin of error in our remaining matches.

We must beat Armenia tonight and it looks as if we’ll need to win our remaining games against Ukraine and Ireland if we are to have any chance of topping the group.

But Clarke’s track record as Scotland boss shows he’s a guy who can get us knocking on the door for major tournaments.

Given where we’ve been, making a change seems a risky and unnecessary move at this point.

Stakes are high as Aberdeen haggle with Liverpool over Calvin Ramsay

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack
Dave Cormack.

Aberdeen chairman Dave Cormack is playing a high-risk game of call my bluff with Liverpool as negotiations continue over Calvin Ramsay.

The Dons have placed a hefty £10million price tag on their teenage right-back, with £5m required upfront and the other half being due in add-ons.

I don’t think anyone expects Ramsay to go to Anfield and dislodge Trent Alexander-Arnold from Jurgen Klopp’s team at this stage.

But the fact the Reds see Ramsay as having the potential to challenge their first choice full-back, who is one of the best in the world in that position, is what Aberdeen are counting on in their valuation of their player.

Aberdeen's Calvin Ramsay on the football pitch
Aberdeen’s Calvin Ramsay.

We will find out soon enough whether Aberdeen’s hardline stance pays off, but it is clear a club record fee is going to be needed before the Dons will part company with the 18-year-old.

I just hope Dons boss Jim Goodwin is able to benefit from any windfall which comes his club’s way.

He has a big job on his hands at Pittodrie this summer and with only one new player on board in Ylber Ramadani, he as a busy few weeks ahead of him.

He is going to need all the help he can get in reshaping his squad for the new campaign.

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