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Picking Scotland's Euro 2024 squad...again


hislopsoffsideagain

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Steve Clarke has till 6 June to name his Euro 2024 squad. We had a go at predicting it all the way back in November; since then UEFA have confirmed that 26 players can be named - just like at the last Euros - and we have lost Lewis Ferguson to an ACL injury. Here's who I think Clarke will pick, with my thoughts. I'm not expecting any 'October surprises' so there's no Harvey Barnes or Tino Livramento here, sadly...



GOALKEEPERS

On the plane: Angus Gunn, Craig Gordon, Zander Clark

Missing out: Liam Kelly


Notes: Gunn is obviously first choice. In November I thought Kelly was ahead of Gordon in the queue but subsequent selections have suggested it's the other way around. In fact, if anything happens to Gunn I'd imagine the Hearts veteran would get the nod ahead of teammate Clark, even though the latter has started more often at club level this season. Clark looked very uncomfortable in relief of Gunn for a f few games in 2023, which may count against him.



CENTRAL DEFENDERS

On the plane: Kieran Tierney, Jack Hendry, Ryan Porteous, Scott McKenna, John Souttar, Liam Cooper

Missing out: Grant Hanley


Notes: All being well, I'd expect Tierney, Hendry and either McKenna or Porteous to start against Germany. Cooper goes because Clarke will want another left-footed centre-back to cover for Tierney. Souttar has been consistently good for Rangers this season. Hanley has played only eight minutes of first-team football since March and hasn't stayed consistently fit since his achilles rupture a year ago, which makes it hard to justify picking him even for his leadership and ability in the air.



FULL-BACKS

On the plane: Andrew Robertson, Nathan Patterson, Aaron Hickey, Greg Taylor, Ross McCrorie

Missing out: Anthony Ralston, Josh Doig, Max Johnston


Notes: Right wing-back is the main area of worry for Clarke and everyone else, as Hickey hasn't played since November because of injury and Patterson recently picked up a significant hamstring injury. Clarke will give both as much time as possible - there's a big drop off from Hickey to Patterson and another big drop to whoever the next man up is - probably McCrorie, whose background was in central defence and central midfield but who has played on the right for Bristol City most of this season. Ralston is only a backup at Celtic but has played well for the national team previously and it wouldn't be a surprise if he was named ahead of McCrorie; certainly if neither Hickey nor Patterson can go he will be in. On the left, Robertson is undisputed first choice; whilst Tierney is the best alternative at the position, Clarke will take Taylor as Robertson's deputy so Tierney can remain in central defence. But there's enough options here that there isn't a place for Doig, who has done well in Italy, or Johnston. 



CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS

On the plane: John McGinn, Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay, Billy Gilmour, Ryan Christie, Kenny McLean, Connor Barron

Missing out: Lewis Ferguson, Elliot Anderson, Ryan Jack, David Turnbull


Notes: The loss of Ferguson is a blow; he had been so good for Bologna that he might have forced himself into the lineup, or at least would have been an excellent option off the bench. The most likely starters are McGregor and Gilmour deep, with McGinn and McTominay more advanced. Christie has been brilliant in a deeper position for Bournemouth and could be used in any of the midfield roles too. McLean will be along as much for his experience as anything else, and is always a good player to come off the bench late in a match. It sounds like Aberdeen prodigy Barron might take advantage of the extra squad slots, though he's unlikely to get minutes. Sadly, Jack just can't stay fit, which is a pity because he and McGregor have always worked well together in front of the defence, Turnbull fell off the radar even before he joined Cardiff, and no-one is sure if Anderson even wants to play for Scotland after he withdrew from a squad last September.



ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS

On the plane: Stuart Armstrong, James Forrest

Missing out: Ryan Fraser, Danny Armstrong, Ben Doak, Ryan Gauld


Notes: I've separated these guys from the other midfielders because they are essentially attackers who won't be playing at centre-forward, but Clarke's usual tactics don't involve out-and-out wingers and McGinn and McTominay will probably be the more attack-minded midfielders. These guys will probably come off the bench if/when we are chasing games. S. Armstrong seems likely to get over a late-season injury scare. Forrest wasn't even in my mind in November but he has been absolutely fantastic in recent weeks. There has been talk of Doak getting a nod (like Barron above) but he hasn't played since December. Fraser has been in Clarke's bad books for calling off too easily in the past and hasn't done enough this season to compensate for that. D. Armstrong has been sensational for Kilmarnock this season and could be an option as right wing-back too but it would be a hell of a step up. Gauld continues to impress in the States but the folks back home never seem to notice.



STRIKERS

On the plane: Lyndon Dykes, Che Adams, Lawrence Shankland

Missing out: Jacob Brown, Kevin Nisbet, Ross Stewart, Oli McBurnie, Lewis Morgan


Notes: The question here is if three strikers is enough, but it's hard to justify any of the others with the exception of Morgan who is scoring goals like mad in the U.S. and would be the sort of in-form wild card option that Clarke should consider. As for the other rejects here, Brown has been injured for months, Nisbet and Stewart are only just back from long-term layoffs, while McBurnie is a favourite of mine who has shown flashes for Sheffield United this season and is outstanding in the air, but is probably more trouble than he is worth. Dykes, Adams and Shankland are all capable of being the front man against Germany, and all capable of contributing off the bench. None, unfortunately, is the world-class forward we desperately lack, but they are unquestionably the best three we have.


If it were me, I'd find a place for Morgan, as a striker who is in form is always worth having, and possibly Doak - I think the latter has at least a little potential to contribute compared to Barron. 


Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly.    

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Sorry to be a pedant but Ryan Gauld is playing in Canada for Vancouver. MLS is North America not just the states. He has been their lynchpin and made what was a notoriously and consistently underperforming team look pretty good. Similarly, Lewis Morgan is one of those who just goes about things under the radar. Messi and the circus in Miami might get all the headlines, but Morgan has been consistently good for New York for a few seasons now. 

 

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