Steve Clarke has vowed to defy the people who warned him that managing Scotland could kill his career.
Named successor to Alex McLeish on a three-year contract, the former Kilmarnock boss insists he is excited by the players at his disposal.
Steve Clarke was unveiled as the new manager of the Scottish national team on Tuesday
Clarke wants Kilmarnock assistant manager Alex Dyer to fill the same role on a part-time basis with Scotland – and also plans to appoint a younger Scottish coach to help out.
Insisting he’s not scared by the challenge ahead, the new man said: ‘I have had many, many messages from lots of good people and hopefully I don’t let them down.
‘It is a big thing to do, it is a big step in my career, that’s why I couldn’t turn the job down.
‘I spoke to quite a lot of people in football who were telling me: ‘Don’t go, it can be a career-killer’.
‘Listen, I am happy to take it on. I am happy to have a go.’ A succession of Scotland managers have been eaten up by the national team’s failure to reach a major finals since 1998.
However, riding the crest of a wave after leading Kilmarnock to a third-place finish in the top flight for the first time since 1966 – and winning PFA Scotland and Football Writers’ manager of the year awards – Clarke insists he’s up for the challenge.
‘It might frazzle me, I don’t know. Nobody knows what the future holds.
‘But I’m certainly not scared of the intensity and the scrutiny.
‘I’m not scared that people might say it’s a career-ender.
‘I went to Kilmarnock and they were bottom of the league.
Clarke was appointed on Monday after guiding Kilmarnock to an historic third-place finish
‘If they’d stayed bottom, that would have been a career-ender, too.
‘I was happy to take on that challenge and I am happy to take on this one, too.
‘Not only am I happy, I am honoured.
‘And, if it frazzles me, I will go down fighting – I promise you.
‘I promise I will give 100 per cent for the country. We will try to be better than we have been and we will try to qualify.’ Clarke begins with a home qualifier against Cyprus on June 8 followed by a daunting trip to Belgium three days later.
Keen to avoid using a Nations League play-off as a safety net after poor displays in Kazakhstan and San Marino, he added: ‘It is really important that we qualify out of the group and don’t rely on the play-off games as a fallback as those games will be really difficult and will have a lot of pressure.
‘It is really important we get out the group.
‘I spoke to Andy Robertson this morning. If everybody is as enthusiastic and determined as Andy is to qualify out of the group, then we have got a chance. It is really important.
‘The play-off has been mentioned a lot. The play-off, the play-off, the play-off. The play-off is for the future.
‘I want to be going to play a friendly next March in preparation for the tournament, not the play-off games.’ Clarke will name his first squad for Cyprus and Belgium before the end of the month.
Before then, he will speak to as many players as possible to gauge their commitment to the cause.
Clarke takes over a Scotland side who have not qualified for a major tournament since 1998
On the subject of players who have retired but might want to come back, he said: ‘If they want to un-retire themselves they have to come back to me or someone else at the SFA that they want to be considered, having previously indicated they don’t want to be considered.
‘And then you have the grey area where some are not quite sure – those are the ones you have to speak to.
‘And if they are not committed, I would rather they were just honest so we can say, look, whatever stage of their career they are at, whatever reasons they have for not wanting to be involved, then don’t come.
‘I look at the core bunch and I get excited and think: ‘We can do something with this group of players’.
‘If they are all committed and want to be here, the hardest thing for me should be who do I leave out of the squad?’ Asked who he wants as an assistant, Clarke revealed: ‘I am in talks with Kilmarnock and Alex Dyer.
‘He wants to stay there and that’s fantastic for them, as he was an integral part of what we did there.
‘But I’d like Alex to come to the training camps as he is a great foil for me.
‘There will be another coach and I have one or two people in mind.
‘There has been talk of a younger Scottish coach and some names have been mentioned.
‘But certainly, for the first camp, I want to have two guys with me who understand how I get my message across.’
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