THERE will be no wild parties or extravagant celebrations in the Clarke household today to mark Scotland manager Steve turning 60.

‘’It will just be me and the wife having a quiet meal,” said the birthday boy at Hampden yesterday after announcing his squad for the Euro 2024 qualifier against Cyprus and 150th Anniversary Heritage Match with England next month. “Nothing special.”

The man who has led the national team to four victories and top spot in Group A this year has already received the best present he could have wished for with Newcastle United midfielder Elliot Anderson pledging his international future to his adopted homeland.

Anderson, who has featured for Newcastle in their Premier League matches against Aston Villa, Manchester City and Liverpool so far this season, attracted interest from England after making his first team breakthrough at St James’s Park back in 2021.

The prodigiously talented 20-year-old, who has represented Scotland at age-group level in the past, took his time to weigh up his options before making his decision and Clarke is delighted he has finally chosen to turn out for the country of his grandmother’s birth.

READ MOREInside Elliot Anderson's Scotland vs England decision

“I’m very pleased that he is committed,” he said. “I don’t think it was such a difficult decision for him in the end. He knows we value him and how much we want him to be part of the squad. He’s an attacking midfield player who can bring attacking options.

“I always like to have an element of the squad that can be part of the future and Elliot is one for now and the future. We are showing there is a pathway through for the young boys and there is a chance to come through and play for the national team.”

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Anderson could, because of his age, potentially play in three competitive matches for Scotland and still revert to playing for England at some stage in the future under FIFA rules which were brought in back in 2020.

However, Clarke has no fears on that front and will be in no rush to get him on the pitch against Cyprus in the AEK Arena in Larnaca on Friday week. 

“I think it’s more important that he’s in the group and gets to know the quality we have in the group,” he said. “He’ll start to learn the standards that we want and the way we want the team to play. If he can get minutes on the pitch then great. If it’s not and it is still a successful camp then he learns from being within the camp, so that’s also good.

“We’ve had good conversations and I know how much he wants to be involved with the squad, which is great. He is doing well with his club, which is obviously a difficult first team to break into, but he’s utilised often off the bench and had a fantastic pre-season. I think he’s in a really good place, so it’s a good time to bring him into the squad.

“He hasn’t had a change of allegiance. He went to an England training camp and then played for Scotland Under 21s. You get to a certain age when he has a choice between Scotland and England. You have to weigh up what you want to do. He took his time to weigh it up and he has come down on our side. I’m pretty pleased about it.”

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The upward trajectory that Scotland, who are tantalisingly close to securing a place in the Euro 2024 finals in Germany next summer after beating Cyprus, Spain, Norway and Georgia, are currently on was a definite factor in Anderson’s call.

“The success the boys have been achieving regularly will tell you that it’s a good place to be,” said Clarke. “It’s a good squad and we are in a good moment. You look at the names on that list - there are some pretty good names. We have shown we can be very competitive against the top teams in Europe, which is what we want to be. So why would you not want to choose Scotland?”

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Clarke has received a few other gifts in the build up to the Cyprus match. Not least Kieran Tierney completing his loan switch from Arsenal, where he has found game time difficult to come by this term, to Real Sociedad in Spain on Sunday.  

“It’s a good move,” said the Scotland manager. “He’s going to a good league, a good standard. It will be a fantastic life experience, first and foremost, but also a fantastic professional experience to play in La Liga. He still has Champions League football with Real Sociedad. I’ve spoken to Kieran and he’s in a really good place. Hopefully, he’ll get some minutes before we meet up. 

“Kieran was frustrated. But he was also very mature about it and very professional. I thought he handled the situation really well and now he’s got his move. It’s down to Kieran to get back down to the business of playing football week in, week out.

“If he’s doing that then I think, even though he’s been really good for Scotland, he can get even better in the future. You would hope that would be the case. There was that little ‘I’ll show you I’m a good player’ element when he was coming away. But he’s certainly done that when he’s played for us.”

READ MORESteve Clarke names Scotland squad for Cyprus and England clashes

If Scott McTominay - who has, despite being the darling of the Tartan Army just now, hardly played for Manchester United this term - could seal a dream move to German behemoths Bayern Munich before the transfer window closes on Friday it would be the icing on the cake for Clarke. 

“Listen, Scott is in a similar situation to what Kieran was last year in that he’s not getting a full 90 minutes at Man United,” he said. “But he’s getting minutes, he’s getting enough. I know Scott well. He’s a top professional. I know he’s going to be working as hard as he can to be as ready as he can be for the national team.

“If he gets a move and it materialises this week, then that can only be good for him. If he doesn’t get a move, then I’m sure he’ll knuckle down and get minutes at Man United. Let’s see what the end of the week brings.

“The good thing for me is that it’s all done and dusted before we meet up next Sunday. Everyone will know exactly where they’re going to be next season. Then we can just focus on Cyprus, which is the main game out of the double header coming up.”

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