WE’RE now just a month away from Scotland’s opening game against the Czech Republic and I’m sure Steve Clarke will be working through a list as long as his arm.

From my experiences ahead of our World Cup appearance two years ago, I can remember getting to this point and just doing everything in my power to make sure we were as prepared as we could be before the tournament began.

Injuries are one of the few areas that are out of a manager’s control as we saw this week with Kenny McLean being ruled out.

Those are the wee things that can alter your overarching plan as, four weeks out, you can be sure that Steve will have his squad in mind and probably even the line-up he wants to send out at Hampden on June 14.

He’ll be closely following all of the different domestic leagues, checking out when his players are going to be finally finished for the season and keeping his fingers crossed that the rest of them come through the last few weeks unscathed before getting a bit of a rest if possible.

Steve’s support team will also be putting plans in place for the players to come in when the season finishes, just to get a look at them if possible before the manager finalises his squad.

You’re also trying where possible to mute all other distractions so you can really concentrate on the job in hand.

HeraldScotland:

READ MORE: Former Scotland Women's manager Shelley Kerr appointed as new English technical lead

In my case, I remember using this period to really drill down into the details of our plans, setting up training programmes for the time you have with them, updating your analysis and just doing as much preparation in advance as we could.

I always felt the more you could do beforehand, the easier it was to manage things in camp. We had our analysts and scouts going over in fine detail all the teams we were going to be playing in the group stage, and also planning for who you could potentially face if you were able to get beyond that.

Scotland face a really tough group making the first game against the Czechs crucial so Steve will be going over his gameplan, how he wants to set up and how to minimise their threats.

I’d imagine even at this stage he will have a starting XI in his head for that match and will be basing his preparation around that.

He’s worked with all the players, he’ll know the opponents inside-out and had plenty of time to dissect all the analysis and scouting reports.

So – barring any more injuries – he should have all the information he needs to start planning thoroughly for that opening game and who he wants to send out at Hampden that day.

It’s a blow to lose McLean from the squad. Even though he’s not been predominantly a starter, Steve obviously likes him as a player.

We always speak about central midfield being one of our stronger areas but we’ve now lost McLean and Ryan Jack so that changes the dynamic a little bit.

It’s a devastating blow for Kenny personally to miss out but it does open up a door for someone else.

David Turnbull is the obvious one to step in, but there are others like Billy Gilmour and Ryan Gauld who might be able to force their way into the final 26.

HeraldScotland:

READ MORE: Shelley Kerr: A tale of two Ryans with Jack ruled out and Gauld shining in Portugal

Steve is very loyal to the players he’s used in the past. Personally, with the three additional places now available, I would turn to some of the younger ones.

We’re all hoping this is the start of Scotland becoming regular participants at major finals so I’d give them that experience of being part of the squad so they know what it’s all about for when we next get back there.

AND ANOTHER THING . . .

I’M delighted to have taken up the position of Technical Lead of England Women’s ‘How We Play’ strategy.

I’m really excited about getting the chance to work with an organisation that is really serious about women’s football and taking the game forward.

My primary role is to work within the technical department to evolve and develop the strategy across all the different women’s national teams.

There are lots of different areas for me to get my teeth into it. I started in the job last week and I can tell already that they’re really committed to it judging by the amount of investment that has been made in women’s football.

My long-term plan was always to move away from touchline management into a role off the pitch like sporting or technical director so this post ticks all those boxes in terms of further development for myself.

It’s good to be able to gain a broader skillset. The intricacies from a technical and tactical point of view is something I’m really into and the job encapsulates all of that.

Going to work for the FA as a former Scotland manager isn’t an issue for me at all. You look at Steve’s backroom staff with John Carver and Steven Reid - that happens all the time in international football.

I’ve given my whole life to Scottish football and I’ll always be passionate about my country. I’ve worked tirelessly for years in every arm of the programme.
But I’m professional enough to do the job I’ve been hired to do and I’ll make sure I do it to the best of my abilities at all times.