ZANDER CLARK has realised his dream of being Scotland’s number one over the past week or so, but the big keeper is anything but naïve. He knows that when Angus Gunn is fit, he will once again be relegated to the role of understudy. And he is keenly aware there has been ample criticism of his performances in the games against Georgia and Norway.

Clark picked the ball out of the net on five occasions over the course of those two matches, and while he wasn’t helped by the dual handicaps of the rather makeshift defence in front of him and manager Steve Clarke trying out an unfamiliar formation that featured a back four, he may well on reflection be disappointed with at least a couple of the efforts that found their way past him.

His attitude to it all though can be summed up by borrowing a line from a ditty which is proving rather popular with the Tartan Army at the minute; que sera sera. All he can do is perform to the best of his ability, try to catch the eye of the national team manager with his club performances, and listen to the feedback of his coaches.

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Anything else, is just noise, a far as he is concerned. So, between now and next summer, if he can be satisfied that he has got his head down and worked as hard as he can to get on that plane to Germany, what will be, will be.

“Listen, that is the life of the goalkeeper,” Clark said.

“There will be people that don’t want to see you in there, and people that do want to see you in there. I just try and do my best any time I pull on any jersey and go into a game.

“People have their opinions. Listen, I am the most critical of myself. If other people want to be critical of me and feel that I should have done better in any instance, I’ll be the first person to be over-critical with myself.

“It is the life of a goalkeeper. You can be a hero, or a villain, very, very quickly. It’s something that I have learned to get used to.

“Maybe back in the day, when I was younger and breaking through, it would have bothered me. But nowadays, if the manager is happy, the coaching staff are happy, then they are the only opinions that matter.”

Any sniping about his capabilities certainly didn’t sour the experience of playing in front of a jubilant, if strangely relaxed, Hampden crowd on Sunday evening.

“It was great,” he said.

“Obviously I have experienced some memorable nights here as part of the squad, but to be starting in the game, it was special. We’ve earned the right to enjoy it.

“Obviously it was great to get back in front of the home fans, who we’ve not seen since we qualified, so it was good to get that lap of honour and soak it up.

“I was delighted with the 45 minutes in Lille and obviously more delighted to get the full game the other night. And to see your name in the starting line-up again at Hampden is a real special moment.

“To represent your country is a dream come to true, but it makes a wee bit more special when it is front of a home crowd. [I'm] delighted to get that chance and I had my wife in the crowd, and so many of my mates in the crowd, and it was nice to see them as well.

“My mum and dad are on holiday but I’m sure they would have been watching on proud. It was great. Just to be any part of the squad is a true honour but if you get minutes, it is even better.”

The other potential hurdle for Clark to clear on his own road to Germany comes in the shape of the returning Craig Gordon, the man whose place he has taken for both club and country, and who is now back in reserve team action following the horrific leg break he suffered on Christmas Eve last year.

The 41-year-old will be desperate to regain his position as number one for Hearts before staking his own claim to go to his second major tournament with Scotland, and his presence is certain to keep Clark on his toes and pushing himself every single day in training.

That may be no bad thing though for the former St Johnstone man, who admits he has found international football to be on a different level to his normal bread and butter in the Scottish Premiership.

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“It is obviously a step up, you are playing against top, top players every game you go into,” he said.

“It has been a step up, it has been enjoyable, a new experience for me. I had never experienced international football until I was at first team level, that was when I made it to the first squad I was ever in.

“Even in training, or sitting on the bench, when you are watching these players, you can learn so much from it. But to actually be in the thick of it, it is only a positive and you have so many learning experiences you can take from it to look to push yourself on.”