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Sport Steve Clarke salutes Scotland unsung heroes as he reveals 'dry camp' exception made for Serbia clash

09:45  14 october  2021
09:45  14 october  2021 Source:   dailyrecord.co.uk

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Steve Clarke has saluted the unsung heroes who have kept Scotland on course for the World Cup.

The national coach is the main man. The overall leader of the entire group.

In his care are a host of top-class players who are at the centre of the spotlight and capture the headlines.

Clarke, though, has another key band of brothers in camp whom he acknowledges have been absolutely crucial in keeping the ship on course for Qatar.

Assistant manager John Carver has seen and done it all before and has acted as a vital influence since joining just over a year ago.

New coaches Steven Naismith, Austin MacPhee and Chris Woods have also worked superbly to minimise the effects of major upheaval behind the scenes in this campaign alone after starting their new jobs just prior to the August matches against Denmark, Moldova and Austria.

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MacPhee didn’t even make that first trio of games in post having been forced into Covid isolation.

But he was there beside the rest of the new backroom trio for the critical wins secured over Israel and the Faroe Islands.

Clarke says their assistance has been crucial to him and have ensured continuity.

He stated: “These are the people I trust and rely upon to give me the right information at the right times.

“To give me help and support when I need it and, trust me, there are times when I need it.

“They are the ones who help me and they help the players a lot. I think you can see that over the course of the time. John’s a good and experienced coach. He says the right thing at the right time.

“He keeps me calm at the right time. He has his shout and his scream if he needs to from time to time, but he’s been a big, big help.

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“When you think the backroom staff to start with. Alex Dyer, Steven Reid and Stevie Woods.

“They have all gone and it’s been a constant evolution behind the scenes.

“But because we have good people coming doing good jobs, we have all managed to stay on the same path of going forward. I’m glad that’s been noticed. It’s very important.”

Clarke got them all together for a chinwag at the start of last week, but there was no big party bonding session.

Asked if it was with a pot of tea or over a few beers, he smiled: “There’s not a lot of alcohol in the camps.

“We do dry camps, although, obviously, Serbia last year was a little bit different!

“We just had a little meet-up before we came into those last two games. Everyone is scattered around the country, so you just really come together for the camps.

“We don’t really get the time. Austin is working at Villa, John is in the north east of England, I’m down the south. We catch up as and when we can. But it’s always nice to see them. I don’t know if they say the same about me!”

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Between the management team, they are squeezing every inch out of their troops and the dividends are there for all to see.

Scotland did not play well for a first half against Israel. They did not play well over an entire game in the Faroe Islands.

Yet, despite those scenarios, they waltzed off from the matches with six points out of six.

Youthful exuberance and daring has helped, but Clarke is quick to praise the older hands who bring composure and experience. Keeper Craig Gordon was a hero in Torshavn with a stunning first-half stop at 0-0 and the manager admits his all-round show was vital.

Clarke said: “We relied on Craig to make one fantastic save and his handling all night was excellent.

“A big, big factor in us getting a clean sheet was the fact we had a goalkeeper who could calm it down.

“His handling was great. He didn’t spill one thing.

“At times in the first half, the defenders were nervy in front of him.

“So that was important for us and kudos to Craig.

”It’s up there. Reaction save. It was important we didn’t go behind.”

Asked about the importance of experience within camp, he added: “It’s really important around the place.

“Liam Cooper came on for the final minutes with that maturity and experience.

“When I got Coops on the pitch, I couldn’t see us conceding after we got the 1-0.

“It took us a long time to get to 1-0, so I wanted to make sure we held it!

“I thought we played well in the second half. We weren’t good in the first half.

“The Faroes were better at doing what they did than us doing what we try to do.

“We played too safe at times and it allowed them to build a bit of tempo.

“Our job was to win. It wasn’t pretty, but we got it, so I was happy for myself, my players and my staff.”

Steven Caulker opens up on the end of his Scotland hopes, not playing for Celtic, saying sorry to Neil McCann and feeling humbled in a church in Kinross .
A WhatsApp message pings. It is Steven Caulker apologising for being waylaid ahead of our chat, originally arranged for 9pm. His schedule has been pushed back. © Steven Caulker (right) is all set to start a new international career with Sierra Leone, the country... It might now be nearer 10pm his time, which is fine.

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