GORDON SMITH has urged Scotland boss Steve Clarke to have faith in Nathan Patterson and Billy Gilmour and give them the chance to shine at the European Championships.

The countdown is continuing for Clarke and his players as Scotland prepare for their opening Group D clash with the Czech Republic next Monday at Hampden.

Patterson and Gilmour both caught the eye during the warm-up win over Luxembourg at the weekend and have done enough to stake their respective claims for a starting spot as Scotland return to a major finals after a 23-year absence.

HeraldScotland: Billy Gilmour

And former Scottish FA chief executive Smith reckons Clarke should follow his own lead from other areas of the side and ensure he gets his best options on the park at all times.

Smith said: "He's done well sorting that situation now and you've seen times when Tierney is overlapping Robertson from centre-back.

"I remember people saying he should only play one of them but they both had to play, even if Tierney had gone to right-back.

"You need your best players on the pitch. Tierney is an outstanding player.

"If you are looking at getting your best players out there, Gilmour and Patterson have to be considered.

HeraldScotland: Nathan Patterson during a Scotland training session

"Certainly, if McTominay was pulled back into defence, Gilmour would go in there. He is an outstanding player.

"I first saw him when he was about nine years old in a Rangers-Celtic youth game and he just ran the show. I remember saying to people: 'who's that?' He was brilliant to watch.

"When he went to Chelsea I wondered about the physicality side of it and whether he would be big enough but he seems to cope with that now.

"He's so sharp. Even in that game I saw when he was nine, he was the type of wee boy who was looking around before receiving the ball, so he knew where everyone was.

"It wasn't just his ability. It was his understanding of the game that made him such an outstanding prospect at that age.

"It's a tough one for Stevie Clarke to see if he can fit him in somewhere. You saw him the other night when he came on. He can play at that level."

Smith would spend three years in charge of the SFA before leaving his post as chief executive and he would later hold the position of director of football at Rangers during Craig Whyte's ill-fated term at Ibrox.

The national side couldn't end their exile from major tournaments during Smith's time at Hampden but the 66-year-old is delighted to see Clarke finally giving the Tartan Army a reason to be cheerful this term.

"I'm really excited," Smith said. "It's going to be a fantastic tournament.

"We've got a reasonably difficult group but thanks to the job Steve Clarke has done, I'm more confident than I've been in a long time over the national team.

"I remember the campaign where Faddy scored against France. We had the two World Cup finalists in our group and to be challenging and get so close to it was a great effort. You are always quite confident.

HeraldScotland: Steve Clarke has asked his players to be responsible on a short break back with their families ahead of the Euros.

"When Steve Clarke got appointed, I thought he was the right man. Two years ago, he took Kilmarnock to third in the league and qualifying for Europe.

"Two years later, they are relegated. There's the difference.

"When he went there, they had three points from their first eight games. He turned that team and these players around.

"He has a great ability to organise teams and get the best out of players.

"The great thing now is that he has competition for places. I thought young Patterson was outstanding when he went on the other night."