THE problem with being a miracle worker is that no-one ever allows you to take a day off. Steve Clarke, as low-key a presence as usual on the eve of Scotland’s Group I encounter with Belgium in Brussels, was downplaying the notion last night that he is capable of some special kind of managerial alchemy when it comes to David versus Goliath encounters such as this one.

The statistics, though, suggest otherwise. In 18 matches against the Old Firm during his time at Kilmarnock, miracles became fairly commonplace occurrences. Clarke broke even – six wins, six draws, and six losses. Okay so there were a few drubbings mixed in there as well, but that is a downright remarkable haul for a club who were teetering on the brink of relegation when he first arrived.

No wonder then that non-believers will be few and far between as the Tartan Army travel to the King Badouin Stadium tonight hoping to see him produce another rabbit from a hat. And who knows where expectations would be if Scotland actually succeeded in getting anything from the best team in the world so soon after crumbling 3-0 to Kazakhstan.

“Taking Kilmarnock to some places like Ibrox and Celtic Park and competing well is always good,” said Clark. “But this is probably a bigger step up when you look at where the Belgians are, ranked No.1 in the world.

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“A lot of people would have said that during the last World Cup they were pretty much favourites to go and win it,” he added. “They didn’t manage to do that so they will be looking to make amends.

“Do I like the miracle worker tag? Well, it probably takes a little bit off the players, because everyone looks and says ‘Steve Clarke has been fantastic as a manager’.

“But I don’t think I have been: I think my players were fantastic at Kilmarnock and I thought the players were good on Saturday. “You are always beholden to your players, they will decide if you are a good coach or a good manager.

"I think I’ve got a good group of players who have been very responsive to what I’ve said to them so far and hopefully they can continue to fool people that I am actually quite good at my job.”

Miracles on a football field, of course, never happen if everyone doesn’t believe in them. Clarke’s recipe for what lay behind all these so-called miracles of the past, and the one he hopes for tonight, includes some potent ingredients.

“Personality, belief, physical energy,” he said. “Lots of work. Belgium are a team that make you run, the good thing about that is it’s the last game of the season so our players can leave everything on the pitch. And we need to hope for a game with almost no defensive mistakes.That’s a very big ask.

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“Did I do anything different before these games [which ended in a shock]?” he added. “Not really. I tried to prepare every game pretty much the same no matter the level of the opponent. Maybe that helps, maybe they see that I prepare for every game exactly the same, I don’t make an extra special mention of this, that or the other. But I don’t think there’s anything special that I do that makes it different.”

Clarke’s status as miracle worked would have been tarnished somewhat, of course, were it not for Oliver Burke popping up with that 89th minute winner against Cyprus on Saturday. Were it not for that, he might just be regarded as the latest Scotland manager who can’t get a group of players to defend a corner. His analysis of that goal has identified skipper Andy Robertson as the culprit, although there is also a mea culpa for the coaching team for failing to organise better themselves.

“We took some clips from the game, we had a quick debrief on a few different issues,” said Clarke. “That was one of them. And we look at ourselves as well. We have to organise from the touchline. Maybe we could’ve organised a little bit better too.”

What is a miracle is the fact that Clarke continues to experience virtually no call-offs from his squad. “We’ve got one or two knocks and little niggles, but hopefully they’ll disappear once we get on the training ground,” he said. He is “tempted” to go with the pace and brawn of Burke up front, although if ever there is someone there whose graft can set a tone for the team it is Eamonn Brophy. Scott McTominay and Stuart Armstrong are also in contention for a start in midfield.

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“It was obviously a good goal for us,” said Clarke. “But young Brophy worked his socks off for the team. Whatever way I go it will be a tough choice.”

Clarke’s footprint is also on the striker at the of the end of the pitch. Having persuaded him north from Chelsea’s reserve team, Romelu Lukaku plundered 17 goals in one season at West Brom, finishing the campaign with a hat-trick in the 5-5 draw which marked Sir Alex Ferguson’s last ever match.

“I managed to persuade Chelsea to let him come up to the Midlands and we had a great season together, he scored 17 goals for us and we finished in a very good position in the Premier League. I’m delighted to see he;s gone on to great things. “But I’m not surprised because his work ethic, even as a young man, was second to none. He was one of the players you’ve got to go out and say ‘Oi, you, inside…it’s time to rest your legs.’ I’m delighted for him, although hopefully he doesn’t have such a good game tomorrow night.

"At a big club, if you don’t score the goals, you have a quiet spell like every striker does, the criticism will follow. But Romelu’s got a good level headed attitude and I’m sure he’ll work his way through it.”

Martinez is a “really good man with a sound football philosophy”, even if he has made a miracle or two against him in the past. “What I like most about the Belgium team is not only the quality they’ve got, but their desire as well. So you’ve got really, really high level players who want to work hard. When you’ve got that, it’s probably why they are No 1. Let’s see what we get and we can revisit the miracle stuff after the game.”