Life at the very top of the game can be unforgiving, as Steve Clarke knows only too well. After starting out at Beith Rovers and spending the first half of his career at St Mirren, the Scotland manager decided to up sticks and join Chelsea, where he would spend the next 11 years racking up 421 appearances.

Clarke’s longevity at one of English football’s biggest clubs is not only testament to his ability as a player but also to his professional mindset which has been a hallmark of his teams ever since. They tend to be hardworking and disciplined – characteristics shared by the national team boss – and there are a few striking examples of that mentality in the current crop.

Take Kieran Tierney, for example. Here is a player who has not had his troubles to seek lately with the former Celtic defender struggling for game time at the Emirates. Being nudged down the pecking order after rivals for the jersey are recruited is part and parcel of the sport but even still, Clarke feels some sympathy towards the 25-year-old.

“It’s one of the things you have got to deal with when you are playing at a top-level club,” he reasoned. “I had it myself when I was a player.

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“Obviously in the early days at Chelsea it was a little bit easier but once you had the foreign influence starting to come in and better players start to turn up, you find yourself at a level where you are maybe not going to be selected to play every game.

“You have to deal with that. I have spoken to Kieran reasonably recently and he is handling the situation well. He understands why he is not getting so many minutes in the Premier League.

“It’s unfortunate that’s he picked up an illness last week or he would have played the game in Portugal. They have the return leg this week and I am hopeful he will get a start and some minutes.

“He has just got to knuckle down and get on with it. That’s what he is doing. You have to be a good professional and work as hard as you can. His club are flying at the top of the league so, while it’s not great that he is not playing, he can take some comfort from the fact the team is playing well.”

Clarke himself stuck it out when the going got tough and he expects Tierney to follow suit. He is impressed with the versatile defender’s mentality and expects him to ply his trade in the Premier League for years to come.


It seems hard to imagine now but believe it or not, the straight-laced Scotland boss says there was a time when his own attitude wasn’t the best. After falling out of the team, his motivation suffered – and he hopes others will learn from his mistakes.

“I don’t think anybody else wanted me! You have got a choice. Run away and try somewhere else or stick it out,” Clarke explained. “I didn’t have too many suitors at the time. I was settled in the area and settled at the club.

“I tweaked my position a little bit and moved inside to centre-back and that seemed to help me get more games.

“Eventually, towards the end of my career, I picked up a few trophies. That as a nice way to finish my career, with two or three winners’ medals in my pocket.

“Kieran is probably in a slightly different position. He is certainly good enough to play to the highest level in the Premier League. I think he should knuckle down, see this season out like the good professional he is and see what the summer brings.”

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Clarke continued: “I actually had six months where I let myself down. I didn’t train as hard as I could or work as hard as I could to be in the team. Thankfully I saw the error of my ways, knuckled down and got back in the team.

“Everyone deals with these situations differently. If I could go back to my situation when team selection was wobbling a little bit I would do it differently. So I can pass that on to people now and give them the benefit of my experience. It didn’t do me any good whatsoever.

“I realised I wasn’t going anywhere. I realised I had to knuckle down and get back in the team and that’s what I did. I ended up with a pretty decent career.

“You have all those experiences that you try to take with you. Then you try to impart that knowledge to players who are experiencing something similar, if not the same situation.

“You say, ‘look I made an a**e of myself there, just be careful what you are doing. Do the right thing’.”