It's still more than six months until Euro 2024, and the draw hasn't even been made yet. So of course it's far, far too early to think about who will be in Steve Clarke's squad for the finals. But I'm not going to let that stop me. Rather than just list twenty-three names (current info suggests that the squad size will be cut back to what it was before Covid and Euro 2020), I'm going to break things down by position and look at what options there are, as well as who is most likely to be on the plane to Germany.
Certain to be in the squad: Angus Gunn
Probably going to be in the squad: Liam Kelly, Zander Clark
Outside chance: Craig Gordon, Robby McCrorie, Ross Laidlaw
A left-field option: Jason Steele
Are we stronger than at Euro 2020? Yes, in that Angus Gunn looks more capable and more reliable than David Marshall was at that tournament.
Notes: One of the lessons learned from the Georgia-Norway doubleheader - and an awful lot of Zander Clark flapping - is that we really don't have any depth at the position unless Craig Gordon manages to get himself back to the level he was playing at prior to his broken leg. Liam Kelly and Robby McCrorie emit massive "in the squad because there aren't any other Scottish keepers" vibes. Ross Laidlaw was mentioned by John Carver as someone the management team are aware of. Rumour has it that Brighton's Jason Steele has declined a call-up before, and I doubt he'd enter the fray just to back up Gunn.
Certain to be in the squad: Kieran Tierney, Jack Hendry, Ryan Porteous
Probably going to be in the squad: Scott McKenna, Grant Hanley, John Souttar
Outside chance: Liam Cooper, Dominic Hyam, Liam Lindsay, Ross McCrorie
A left-field option: Liam Morrison
Are we stronger than at Euro 2020? Probably, if only because the players now look very well versed in playing a back three (the other lesson learned from the Georgia-Norway doubleheader is we don't seem to be strong enough defensively to get away with a back four).
Notes: Kieran Tierney remains key because of his quality in possession and his ability to overlap/underlap Andy Robertson, as well as the fact that there is a big drop off to the next best left-footed centre-back, Liam Cooper. Jack Hendry generally seems the best option on the right, also offering good distribution to go with his height, while Ryan Porteous is the current incumbent in the centre position. Scott McKenna is the next man up if any of that first choice trio are absent, though he hasn't been getting gametime at Nottingham Forest recently. John Souttar finished last season really well for Rangers, but has been injured again recently. If fit, he would have a good chance of getting in. Meanwhile Grant Hanley has been out since the spring with an achilles injury but he was a first choice prior to that so if he gets back to fitness and form he'd be expected to make the squad. Dominic Hyam has been injured recently too but is normally a first choice for Blackburn. The uncapped Liam Lindsay is playing regularly and well for Preston, who are flying just now. Ross McCrorie has yet to play for Bristol City because of illness so he's probably well down the pecking order now; however his versatility might work in his favour. And apparently Liam Morrison has shone on loan for Wigan Athletic; the 20 year old Bayern Munich player is probably one for the future though.
Certain to be in the squad: Andrew Robertson, Nathan Patterson, Aaron Hickey
Probably going to be in the squad:
Outside chance: Greg Taylor, Anthony Ralston, Calvin Ramsay, Josh Doig, Max Johnston
A left-field option: Tino Livramento
Are we stronger than at Euro 2020? Yes, because we've significantly upgraded from Stephen O'Donnell on the right.
Notes: Captain Andy Robertson will start at left wing-back and Aaron Hickey on the right; Nathan Patterson will back up the latter unless Tino Livramento declares for Scotland, in which case the Newcastle United player would be in a direct battle with Hickey for a start. Hickey and Tierney would both be more than capable stand-ins for Robertson which means Clarke could potentially skimp on the position. Greg Taylor seems more comfortable in a back four - and didn't look comfortable at all in the Georgia and Norway games. Anthony Ralston is probably too far down the queue just now, while Calvin Ramsay's progress has stalled because of injuries; he hasn't even played yet this season. Josh Doig and Max Johnston have both had call-ups recently to the seniors but are unlikely to be in the reckoning for this tournament.
Certain to be in the squad: John McGinn, Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay, Billy Gilmour, Lewis Ferguson
Probably going to be in the squad: Kenny McLean, Ryan Jack
Outside chance: Elliot Anderson
A left-field option: Hayden Hackney
Are we stronger than at Euro 2020? Yes, not because personnel have changed much but because we've finally found a role that works for Scott McTominay.
Notes: Clarke will either play four central midfielders, with McTominay and John McGinn pushed further forward of Callum McGregor and probably Billy Gilmour, or just go for the former trio with a more attack-minded player inserted instead. Gilmour is most effective in games where we dominate possession, which may not be plentiful in the finals. Lewis Ferguson has been terrific at club level in more of a number ten role and it wouldn't be hard to imagine Clarke deploying him there if he continues his current trajectory. Ryan Jack missed Euro 2020 because of injury and is a polarising figure, but I'm not sure anyone in the squad is better as a purely defensive midfielder. However it may be hard to fit in both Jack and Kenny McLean because of the numbers game. McLean got a lot of praise for Clarke after the Norway match and the manager particuarly likes his reliability and tactical discipline. It's not clear if Elliot Anderson, who was called up for one squad and then pulled out through injury, still wants to play for us or hang fire in the hope of a future England call; he is a real prospect though and is talented enough to be in the 23 if he wants to be. Hackney has shone for Middlesbrough but, having played for Scotland under-21s, he has appeared in recent England squads at that age level and also seems to have thrown his lot in with the Three Lions for now.
Certain to be in the squad: Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Christie
Probably going to be in the squad:
Outside chance: Ryan Fraser, Ben Doak, Siriki Dembele
A left-field option: Harvey Barnes
Are we stronger than at Euro 2020? Not sure we're much different, really.
Notes: The industrious Stuart Armstrong remains a guy who either squeezes into the starting XI or is one of the first options off the bench. Ryan Christie is probably the best player we have for carrying the ball up the pitch though his recent international performances have not been as good as his efforts for Bournemouth. Given that Clarke may not start any of the listed players and doesn't use a system with wingers, it's hard to justify taking any others unless someone hits form or is felt to offer a spark as a substitute. Ben Doak is clearly going to be special but isn't getting enough game time to confirm whether he's ready yet. Ryan Fraser has done well since joining Southampton but Clarke has been suspicious about his commitment in the past. Siriki Dembele has impressed for Birmingham this season but probably not enough to get on the radar yet. But it does sound like Harvey Barnes is tempted to join up, though recent injuries have made sure we couldn't find out if he would have accepted a call for the last few squads. Barnes would be a huge upgrade on what we have, though squeezing him in on the left might require some tactical tweaking.
Certain to be in the squad: Lyndon Dykes, Che Adams
Probably going to be in the squad:
Outside chance: Jacob Brown, Kevin Nisbet, Lawrence Shankland, Ryan Hardie
A left-field option: Oli McBurnie
Are we stronger than at Euro 2020? No. It's mostly the same names.
Notes: An elite forward would elevate this team so much, in the way Robert Lewandowski and Gareth Bale did for Poland and Wales respectively. Instead we have Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams as our best two options. Dykes' industry and attitude are first-rate and he's better at link-up play than Adams, but the latter is a far superior finisher. Neither can be relied on for more than the odd goal though. The other options are quite the motley crew though, and one would think Clarke would pick a third striker based entirely on form in April and May. At the moment Jacob Brown seems to be that option but he struggled against Norway. Lawrence Shankland did score against Georgia as a sub and has more goals than any of the other candidates this season. Kevin Nisbet hasn't really got going since joining Millwall in the summer. Ryan Hardie of Plymouth has six Championship goals and is as good an option as anyone. And then there's Oli McBurnie, out of the picture for nearly three years but playing regularly (when fit) in the Premier League. He'll win lots of headers, but does he offer much else?
That's 16 certainties and 7 probables, which of course fits nicely with the numbers. But I bet that a lot will change in a few months time. So shall we look at it again then? We shall.
Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.