TIME is such a precious commodity when you are an international manager. You often wait months to get to work with your players and then, when you finally get the group together, you have to make sure you squeeze something out of every last second as it won’t be long before they are all disappearing back to their clubs again.

Steve Clarke has named his squad for Scotland’s forthcoming World Cup qualifiers and he’ll be eager to make sure he uses those weeks together wisely when they meet up.

With three important matches to play in just six days and a long journey to Israel in the middle as well, planning and being organised is so important to ensure you get the most out of it.

Most of his squad will start to meet up on Sunday night, just four days before the Austria game. It will only be on Monday, then, when Steve will get the chance to start to work with them.

Even then, on that first day he will have players coming in who have played on Sunday and so he’ll need to form different training groups depending on who’s done what. He’ll rely on his sport scientist to gather all the data to help form those decisions.

That means he’s only got two full sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday before the first match on Thursday. It’s not a lot of time ahead of such a key fixture.


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In my time as Scotland manager, I would plan all our sessions in advance with my coaches based on the three key moments of any game: attacking, defending and transition. And then you have set-plays on top of that. You would then go into camp to start the build-up to your first game with the overall framework and gameplan already in place for when the players arrived.

I always had a rough idea of the team I wanted to field before the squad met up but you always wanted to see them in the flesh before making a final decision. And I’m sure Steve will do likewise.

The hardest thing for him this time around will come after the first match. 
Next Friday will probably be a recovery day or maybe a travel day, depending on when they fly to Israel. So he’ll then have one training session to switch the focus from one game to the next. And that’s very tough for a manager to deal with.

I wasn’t one for regularly speaking to the players in the months between their Scotland commitments. I always felt it was important for them to be focused on their club football in those periods.

So if I was at a game to cast an eye over one or more of my players, I would leave them in peace before and afterwards. I didn’t want to be overly intrusive at that point. After all, as an international manager you’re only ever borrowing a player. Club football is their bread and butter.

I would lean a lot on my captain and the other senior players to keep me informed about what was happening with the group and to help integrate any new players into the squad.

I wrote last week that I thought Steve would stick mostly with the tried and tested when he named his squad on Tuesday and that was the case.

Che Adams was the name that stood out and it will be interesting to see 
how he fits in, both within the squad and with Scotland’s tactics. We don’t have an array of forwards who are in form right now so watching him play in a top league and doing well I believe he will add real value.


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Adams’ club Southampton often set up in a 4-4-2 formation which Steve doesn’t tend to use so there will need to be an adjustment for Che if he starts up front on his own.

He will also have to get used to meeting up with new faces and I’m sure he’ll be glad to have team-mate Stuart Armstrong there with him.

I had something similar with Martha Thomas who was also eligible for England and the United States before we called her up after tracking her for a few years.

Sophie Howard had been in a similar boat so we decided to have her and Martha room together. I also brought along my former team-mate Ifeoma Dieke to a training camp so she could talk to them about what it was like to play for Scotland when you’re eligible to play for more than one nation.

We never had any initiation ceremonies like new players having to sing or anything like that – not that I was aware of! Maybe the players did that away from the management team.

But what we did like to do was acknowledge any debutants in our debrief after a match and did a wee presentation for them after picking up their first cap.

In terms of the rest of the squad, I wrote last week I thought David Turnbull might have had a chance of a call-up given his performances for Celtic since the turn of the year. But Steve has explained it’s an area where he is already well served which is a fair point. I’m sure David’s time will come.

And there’s a place for Parkhead centre-back Jack Hendry, who has been performing well on loan at KV Oostende in Belgium’s Pro League, and he more than merits a chance to show what he can do at international level.