Scotland manager, Steve Clarke, faces some tough decisions in preparation for Scotland kicking off the 2024 European Championships next summer.
Despite conceding 14 goals in our last five games (none of which mattered, right?) we are on our way to Germany. Now comes half a year of anxiety and excitement for the upcoming European Championships. Many will be analysing any potential squad members’ club form, or lack thereof, while keeping a close eye on possible injuries.
The question you will constantly hear in the media and down the pub until June is… who? Who should be on that plane to Germany? Who is going to have to be left out of Steve Clarke’s squad? Who can lead us out of the groups for the first time? Some inclusions are more obvious than others, with positions being filled seemingly naturally, but others have more controversy.
Let’s start with number one. In goal, it has to be Angus Gunn. The Norwich shot stopper is simply a lot better than the other options and has earned his place between the sticks. His main competitor is an ageing Craig Gordon, and even if he could only make it onto the pitch if he’s strung up like Weekend at Bernie’s, his experience makes for a valuable back-up. The easiest job in football, third-choice goalie, I’d give to Ross Laidlaw. Why not have some Ross County representation given that he’s been in good form and none of the alternatives have really impressed?
Next, it is the jewel in the crown of Steve Clarke’s tactics, the 5-at-the-back swinging defence. Largely, this speaks for itself. Robertson and Hickey as wingbacks, and Tierney at left-centre-back. This trio’s absence was massively felt in the last few games as a worrying number of goals were conceded, so they should be welcomed back into the team with open arms. The remaining centre back spots go to Scott McKenna and Ryan Porteous, with Hendry, Souttar, and Hanley providing fairly solid depth. Wing-back cover would come in the form of Taylor and Patterson, completing a defence that seems genuinely capable as a foundation on which to build a successful team.
The midfield is also hard to dispute. Calum McGregor and Billy Gilmour sit in front of the defence. With the former bringing mounds of experience and composure and the latter becoming increasingly vital to Brighton’s own midfield, they are easy picks. The current talisman of the nation, the prolific McTominay, plays a bit further up. I’ve heard some fans say we should just go ahead and play him as striker, but the United man has literally scored all his goals from his current position in midfield. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
McGinn should continue his role as an attacking midfielder, playing off the striker, undoubtedly a position he excels at. The only player that has a chance of breaking into this area is Lewis Ferguson, who is excelling at Bologna and could easily fill in at either of the latter two’s roles. Unfortunately for him, the team has been wholly successful without him in it, but he does provide excellent depth and attacking options. The reserves should be Armstrong and McLean, completing a convincing midfield for the tournament.
Who should be playing up top has become a contentious question in recent months. There are several strikers staking their claims to the number nine shirt, and each bring different qualities and drawbacks. Dykes has been our go to target-man in the qualifiers, and he does do his job of hounding defences to open up space for others quite effectively, but he suffers from not scoring all that much. Che Adams has also been with us the whole qualifiers, and is much more dynamic with great movement, but gets even less goals. Shankland is the best natural goal scorer out of the bunch but lacks other abilities. Brown is the only English Premier League striker on the list, but he’s not yet proven himself in his opportunities with Scotland thus far. Nisbet is just a lesser Shankland or Dykes. Ultimately, it should be Dykes, Adams, and Shankland on the plane. The first two have gotten us this far and deserve their spot, and Shankland is a capable striker while also providing some Scottish Premiership representation.
I have absolute trust in Steve Clarke to select the best possible squad for the summer. He’s got good options, the best I’ve ever seen in my life. There’s a real chance this team can make it out of the groups, and maybe even with that momentum go on a run into the tournament. I can only hope.