Scotland fever tells Steve Clarke the naked truth behind keeping camp here as he taps into Tartan Army excitement

Steve Clarke is not going to get his knickers in a twist over a couple of bits of bad news ahead of the Euros.

The Scotland boss would rather tap into the Tartan Army fever that even had a half-naked punter watching training in his pants. Clarke is refusing to let any negativity creep into his camp despite a boot in the delicates with the loss of Lyndon Dykes at the end of last week.

The striker joined Aaron Hickey, Nathan Patterson and Lewis Ferguson on the Euro agony list and others such as Scott McTominay, Stuart Armstrong and John Souttar have niggles that will keep them out of tonight’s tune up against Gibraltar, while young gun Ben Doak is still being gradually nursed back to fitness following his long lay off. Some supporters might in danger of ruining their underwear with the big tournament on the horizon. But Clarke isn’t getting that feeling.

Unlike the last Euros, when the Scotland squad set up camp in Spain before the competition, this time the gaffer has made Glasgow his HQ. The manager doesn’t want his players to be shielded from the building excitement – he wants them to embrace it.

Even the more bizarre backing, like one fans hanging out his window over the Lesser Hampden training ground in his birthday suit. Clarke said: “The only thing different to last time is that we are in Glasgow, so we are around and can feel the excitement building, even just from the people watching from the hill behind Lesser Hampden.

“There was a guy half naked hanging out his window watching from one of the flats the other day! Not such a pretty sight, but everybody is watching, everybody wants a little bit of it. You can feel that.

“Some of the coaching staff walk from the hotel down to Hampden in the morning to get a bit and they can feel the mood of the nation. That has been quite important. The last time was obviously covid, so there was isolation anyway, but we were stuck down in a fantastic facility in the north of England.

“It’s nice to be in the country. I think the players are enjoying it as well. The last time we went to Spain for the pre-camp and had a lovely camp there in La Finca.

“We decided this time to just keep them in the country and let them feel how excited everybody is and then hopefully it rubs off. They know anyway. They understand how big it is for the country.”

Clarke is still upbeat, but the gaffer has not had it easy. It wasn’t so long ago this was a lark. The team was flying, everyone was fighting fit and nothing could go wrong…

So much for that idea. There’s been a pile of bad luck in recent times but Clarke is not going to let it spoil his mood. A lot can be made of who is not around but he prefers to see who is – and he likes what he sees.

Clarke said: “I was reliably informed that every squad can expect two injuries. I think five is a little bit much, so hopefully that’s the end of it.

“I don’t see any reason to be negative about anything, Injuries are part and parcel of football, the players understand that, the coaches understand that, you just need to deal with anything thrown at you and get on with it. We still have, in my opinion a hell of a good squad and we look forward to the tournament.”

Clarke still has time as well, along with these bounce games with Gibraltar and then Finland on Friday night back at Hampden. Monday's line up is not going to look anything like the team that strides out in the Euros opener against Germany in Munich in less than a fortnight.

Instead, it’s a chance to get vital minutes into the legs of players who need them most. Clarke said: “For the two friendly matches I’m focussing on what we do, especially attacking wise. When we go to the tournament there will be one or two things we need to tweak defensively depending on who we are playing.

“We can work on them leading up to the tournament. We go to Germany on Sunday and we’ve got from Monday to Friday to prepare for the first game.

"And then because it is the first game starting on the Friday we have five days going into the Swiss game. So we have plenty of time to deal with any tactical things we need for each game. For now it is just about concentrating on ourselves and work a little bit in training on what we want to be good at.”

Gibraltar always looked an interesting choice of opposition, but it’s perhaps best not to overthink it. Clarke wants a run out without too much stress – and certainly no more injuries.

He said: “You’ve got to respect everybody. There would never be any shocks in football, all these cup shocks where higher-ranked teams lose to lower-ranked teams, you would never get those if you just dismissed every opponent.

“They are a team that’s tried to improve. In the last two games they played Lithuania and lost both games 1-0. They know what they are doing at certain times. If we were going to play Lithuania the media would be getting nervous. That is the reality.

“You have to put Gibraltar into that bracket. Okay, a pot five team, but let’s respect them and go out there and play them as well as we can.”

And getting our pants pulled down is definitely not part of the plan.