‘No excuses’: Clarke admits Scotland must accept flak after 5-1 hammering

<span>Scotland manager Steve Clarke talks to Andrew Robertson during a training session at Stadion am Gröben in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.</span><span>Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA</span>
Scotland manager Steve Clarke talks to Andrew Robertson during a training session at Stadion am Gröben in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

It felt appropriate that Scotland carry out media duties in an ice hockey arena when it was confirmed that Steve Clarke would appear in front of the press on Sunday. A frosty atmosphere seemed certain, less than 48 hours after the humbling 5-1 defeat against Germany.

Instead, Clarke’s tone was pitch perfect. At the Scottish training base in Bavaria, the manager offered a full mea culpa. “Listen, there are no excuses,” he said.

“When you lose a game 5-1, and I have been in this a long time, you have to take all the criticism that comes. You have to respond. The good thing for me is, I have been in this position before. I have always responded pretty well. The players have always responded pretty well.

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“We believe in ourselves. There is no danger of that [not being the case]. We know it was a bad night. We have to accept the criticism that comes our way but we have to try to put it right.

“Sometimes it is difficult to explain to people who aren’t involved in professional football. The players have to be resilient because it is a game, especially club football, of emotions. You can have a terrible result on a Saturday and have to be bouncing back, ready to go on a Tuesday or a Wednesday night. So it’s a rollercoaster of emotions.

“It’s the same here. They understand they have let everybody down. They are disappointed. But they know they have to be ready and up for the next game because that’s the nature of being involved in football. I am always confident in my players and I am confident in myself.”

Clarke had chosen to tackle matters relating to Germany head on rather than send, for example, his assistant John Carver. “This is my job,” he added. “It wasn’t for one of my coaches to come here. It was my job to come today and face the media so that all the questions that they are going to give me are cleared before we go to the Swiss game.”

The key issue, of course, surrounds whether Scotland can regain composure and confidence before that meeting with Switzerland in Cologne on Wednesday. Clarke said his role has involved “kicking a couple of backsides and giving a couple of cuddles” as he looks for a dramatically improved showing. The manager partly blames himself, though, for the rout in Munich.

“If I criticise myself – and I always do, I start with myself – maybe I gave too much information which clouded the players on the pitch in terms of what we do with the ball, what we do without the ball,” Clarke said. “So we can work on that, we did this morning and will for the next two days going into the game on Wednesday night. Hopefully we will see a different performance.

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“I have spoken to one or two players around the squad, whose opinion I value. I had a good chat with a few of them. I had a little chat with a lot of them on the training pitch this morning, just to try and put one or two things in their head that maybe they didn’t do when they went on the pitch, that they should have done.”

Clarke was understandably noncommittal on potential team changes. It would be a surprise if Billy Gilmour is not restored to the Scotland midfield for the Switzerland clash, when defeat for the Scots will mean elimination. Switzerland were particularly impressive in the first half of their victory over Hungary on Saturday.

“We had to go to the second game in the last Euros with a similar idea,” Clarke recalled. “We still had an outside chance with the goal difference. This time the goal difference part of it – three points, zero goal difference – is gone. That safety net is gone. We know that. So we have to get four points from our next two games.”

Clarke also issued a defence of Watford’s Ryan Porteous, who was dismissed against Germany for a wild lunge on Ilkay Gündogan. “He is very down, as you would expect,” Clarke said. “Ryan hasn’t been sent off for a couple of years. He has been great for us since I gave him his chance. It’s something that Ryan will learn from but it was an honest challenge to try and stop a goal, to try and stop an opportunity. I wouldn’t be too hard on him.”