Steve Clarke reassures clubs over Scotland's coronavirus protocols

Steve Clarke insists club managers should have full confidence that Scotland are following coronavirus guidelines to the letter.

Celtic say they will be monitoring discussion on whether it is right for club sides to release players for international duty after seeing Israel full-back Hatem Elhamed become the fourth member of their squad forced to self-isolate this week ahead of Saturday’s Old Firm clash live on Sky Sports.

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Hoops midfielder Ryan Christie will sit out the game with Rangers after he and former Parkhead team-mate Kieran Tierney were ruled to have been in close contact with Stuart Armstrong following the Southampton midfielder’s positive test for Covid-19 last week after joining the Scotland camp.



Celtic
Rangers

But Clarke insists the Scottish Football Association has done all it can to protect the players, saying: “I think we’ve done that, I think the protocols that we’ve put in place have been proven. We had the Covid incident when we first got to the camp and since then all have tested negative.

“This morning, in particular, we’d have been getting a wee bit further into the period where you’d be getting nervous about it but everyone has come back negative.

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“It means that Dr John MacLean and our head of performance Graeme Jones, who are responsible for those Covid protocols, have got it right.”

But Clarke admits he may not be the best person to ask about the sense in playing international football amid a global pandemic as without it he would be unemployed.

“I’ve got sympathy for everybody who is affected by the Covid virus, whether it is football or outside of football,” he said.

“If there was no international football, I wouldn’t have a job. If it wasn’t for the international game, I wouldn’t be working.

“Listen it’s part of the calendar. Club football comes back, international football comes back.

“We’re all doing the best we can in a difficult situation to get the football season played, so I don’t think I’m the one to judge on the fixtures and who should be doing what.

“If we’re asked to play the games, then that is what we’ll do.”



Scotland
Czech Republic

Are things starting to turn for Scotland?

A year ago this week, Scotland were thrashed 4-0 by Russia to leave their hopes of qualifying for Euro 2020 reliant upon the play-offs.

An alarming second-half collapse marked a fourth straight defeat under Clarke and Scotland looked well off the pace. The Moscow debacle officially ended the side’s remote hopes of a top-two finish and left them in fifth place in Group I, four points behind third-placed Cyprus.

However, with the guarantee of a lifeline as a result of winning their Nations League group, Scotland have been showing signs of improvement under the former Kilmarnock boss. There is a growing sense of euphoria surrounding the national team.

Scotland are unbeaten in seven internationals, winning five of them, after losing four in a row before that. They last enjoyed a longer run without defeat between 1987 and 1988 under Andy Roxburgh – and Clarke’s men can match that on Wednesday.

In beating Slovakia on Sunday, Scotland top their Nations League Group B2 to continue their steady progress, and another victory over a weakened Czech Republic this week would put them in a strong position to achieve a World Cup 2022 safety net.

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Wednesday also provides players with the final chance to impress Clarke before the Euro 2020 play-off final in Serbia next month.

Are things starting to turn for Tartan Army? Read Ben Grounds’ full preview of Scotland’s clash with Czech Republic.

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