Steve Clarke open to new Scotland call-ups as Ben Doak prospects addressed amid Elliot Anderson U-turn

Scotland manager Steve Clarke during the 150th Anniversary Heritage Match against England at Hampden Park. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
Scotland manager Steve Clarke during the 150th Anniversary Heritage Match against England at Hampden Park. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

The Scotland manager spent Wednesday reflecting on a painful loss to England in the 150th anniversary heritage match. While a 3-1 defeat to a team as well-stocked as Gareth Southgate’s doesn’t necessarily signal the need for wholesale changes, Clarke will digest the lessons learned on a bracing night at Hampden.

“I think a squad should always be a work in progress,” he said. “Because otherwise you end up with everybody growing old together. So your squad should always be a work in progress. You are always looking to see how you can improve, whether that is from the pool of personnel I have got at the moment or adding one or two to the current pool. We are always looking to improve.

"We want to qualify for the next tournament and the next one and the next one and the next one. We don’t want to go through a run of 20 years where we are not qualifying for tournaments again. The evolution of the squad is important.”

There were already issues for Clarke to deal with whatever the outcome against England and his next squad announcement for the games in Spain and France in October will be of exceptional interest. Elliot Anderson's absence would confirm reports that the midfielder has had second thoughts after declaring his availability to Clarke.

The Newcastle United forward was named in the Scotland squad for the games against Cyprus and England but pulled out after a couple of training sessions due to what the Scottish FA described as an injury.

Anderson returned to his club and has now decided, according to the Express, that he ‘rushed’ his decision to commit to Scotland and does want to be considered for selection going forward after Gareth Southgate confirmed that he was still a player who interests him. Although he has featured for Scotland at several age-group levels, the 20-year-old, who was born in Whitley Bay but qualifies for Scotland through a grandparent, has also represented the England Under-19 side.

The Scotland manager is aware that another Newcastle player, Harvey Barnes, is reportedly open to switching from England to Scotland, although Clarke has stressed that he will not be the one making the first phone call. Instead, Barnes will need to make the next move.

Another option for Clarke is to promote from within, with Ben Doak a name on everyone's lips after another impressive display for the Under-21s earlier this week.

Doak is still just 17 but has become a regular in the Liverpool squad this season, featuring once as a substitute against Chelsea. Clarke made a point of watching the Under-21s take on Spain in Jaen on the eve of the England fixture and Doak caught the eye in the 1-0 defeat.

"Anybody who watched the under-21 game on Monday night, and I did watch it, could see he is really good," said the Scotland manager. "In the first half I thought he was really good, in the second half he didn’t get in the game quite so much.

"He is a young man learning the game. I think going away and playing against Spain Under-21s away and being one of the highlights of the game is good for him. I was actually quite pleased with quite a lot of the young boys. I thought they did well, they competed well with Spain. So you look down and think: ‘Yeah, we can continue to improve’. That is what we are trying to do.”

Asked if Doak could be fast-tracked to the senior set-up, Clarke replied: “Let’s just see how things pan out. He is a young man, he is a very exciting talent, but sometimes you have to let them grow a bit.”