You would be forgiven for thinking Scotland is operating as a club team these days given the number of players the national team is linked with. 

The European Championships in Germany are fast approaching amid what feels like endless speculation surrounding several talents who are yet to make decisions on their international futures. 

Recently Steve Clarke’s Scots have been linked with four Newcastle players, yes four, and you would have to imagine our recent qualification for the Euros will have something to do with that.  

Harvey Barnes, Tino Livramento, Anthony Gordon and Elliot Anderson have all been touted as having possible Scotland futures, but it remains to be seen if any of them will actually commit ahead of the championships in the summer. 

Leeds United youngster Archie Gray was also put forward this week by his teammate Liam Cooper who has been doing his best to try and persuade the 17-year-old to cross the England vs Scotland divide. 

Gray currently is captain of England’s U18s, despite his family having a steep history in navy blue north of the border. Gray’s grandfather Frank and great-uncle Eddie both played for Scotland, and he is still eligible to strut his stuff at Hampden through his father and former Leeds striker Andy, who picked up two international caps under Berti Vogts. 

I reported Cooper’s quotes regarding Gray earlier this week in The Herald and a response from a reader hit the nail on the head when he questioned why on earth Gray would need persuading to play for Scotland. 

The reader wrote: “If he needs to be convinced to choose to play for Scotland don’t bother with him. 

“Two fantastic Scottish international relatives and a Scottish international dad – is that not enough? 

“Forget him and pull the plug.” 

I don’t think it is quite time to pull the plug on Gray just yet, but Steve Clarke and those leading the recruitment drive for the national team need to ensure players are only joining the set-up because they want to play for Scotland.  The national team should never be seen as a back-up that has become a player's only route into international football

Gray at the tender age of 17 still obviously has a complex decision to make. I am in no way criticising him for that, but there must be commitment, enthusiasm and passion from those with more experience under their belt. 

Anderson is a prime example of going about things in the wrong way. The Newcastle midfielder was handed a Scotland call-up by Steve Clarke back in October before he exited the squad after two training sessions due to doubts about his future.  

This to me shows he still wants to play for England, and Gareth Southgate’s side would be his first choice if both options were on the table. That is fine, there is nothing wrong with playing for England, but make up your mind quickly and with dignity, and don't waste precious time.

Scotland have a European Championship to prepare for and the manager and his coaching staff simply don’t have the bandwidth to mess around with players who aren’t sure if they want to be involved. 

Clarke managed his 50th game against Georgia on Thursday and the difference in terms of the squad since he took over is hugely impressive. Yes, the performance in midweek was far from great, but there were so many positive attributes that are becoming applicable to Scotland on a regular basis now. 

There was a steeliness about the team and you just felt there was no way we were losing the game, despite going behind twice. The never-say-die attitude is prevalent throughout the national team set-up and that is a testament to the team spirit that Clarke has created within his ranks. Every player in the squad wants to be there, they want to win football matches and they want to compete at the highest level possible. 

With that in mind, every squad member is desperate to book their place on the plane to Germany and Clarke knows he will have some selection headaches when the time comes to name his final choices for the tournament. 

Some have criticised Clarke for his loyalty to players, but this has undoubtedly paid off. Look at where the team is now compared to when he took over. With this in mind, there has to be confidence he will make the right decisions over the countless names linked with Scotland in recent weeks. 

Clarke will, of course, speak to those who qualify to represent Scotland and he will be aware of all their attributes, especially given how well Eddie Howe’s side have performed in the Premier League this season.  

However, he will only give the players a chance in his squad if they can add something to it. A player could have all the talent in the world, but if there is no dedication to the cause, then it is simply a non-starter. 

Thursday’s match against Georgia showed there are plenty waiting in the wings who are desperate for a place in this team. Zander Clark, Greg Taylor, Scott McKenna, Lewis Ferguson, Kenny McLean and Anthony Ralson were all handed minutes due to injuries in the camp and Lawrence Shankland ultimately popped up with the all-important equaliser after being a late addition to the squad when Che Adams was forced out through injury. 

The Hearts captain should have been in the squad in the first place, but he will certainly have forced himself into Clarke’s plans now and he could well start against Norway at Hampden on Sunday. Shankland's attitude of biding his time and waiting for his international chance should be admired and it should also be taken on board by those who have failed to show the national team respect in recent camps.