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Clarke 'will give everything' to lead Scotland to finals

The new Scotland boss wants commitment from players and won't ask retired stars to return.

Clarke says the Scotland job is the pinnacle of his career.
Clarke says the Scotland job is the pinnacle of his career. SNS Group

Steve Clarke has spoken about his pride at being named as the new Scotland manager but said he's getting to work immediately to try and get the Euro 2020 qualification campaign back on track.

Clarke has been appointed as the national team boss on a three-year deal after leading Kilmarnock to third place in the Premiership. He said he was walking into a fresh challenge but one that he was determined to give his best in.

"I am absolutely humbled and honoured to be in charge of the national team," Clarke said. "I played for Scotland but to manage Scotland is probably the pinnacle.

"I wouldn't be here without the time I had with Kilmarnock. It was an unbelievable 18 months I had there with great success.

"Again, I want to thank Kilmarnock for everything they gave me to make this opportunity possible.

"But now it's a new chapter, a new challenge. And anybody who knows me knows that I like a challenge. I like to challenge myself. If I was a lazy person I would still be at Chelsea in the assistant manager's seat.

"This is a big challenge and I'm looking forward to the challenge."

The 55-year-old's immediate target is to qualify for next year's European Championships. Scotland already have the back-up of a play-off place that was secured through the Nations League but face an uphill battle to claim one of the top two spots in Group I. Belgium and Russia are the favourites to progress and after a bruising defeat to Kazakhstan and a pedestrian win over San Marino, Scotland can't afford a slow start under Clarke.

The manager insisted that the campaign could be turned around and qualification could be achieved through the group. And he told the Tartan Army he wanted their backing.

"We want to make them proud of their country and their team," he said. "We want them to come to the matches and get right behind the team like they always do. The numbers have dwindled a little bit.

"But it's my job to ensure the team is focused. I only want players that are 100% committed to the national team.

"I will give everything I have got to try and qualify and qualify through the group stages. That's important to say.

"We slipped up in the first game so we have to make sure that we pick up points in the tournament and the two matches in June are absolutely crucial.

"I can't relax. Between now and the Belgium game, we have to pick up as many points to get our qualification back on track."

Clarke will name his first squad next week and gave no hints about whether he would make major changes from the group predecessor Alex McLeish worked with. He said he would impress on the squad the importance of appreciating the opportunity they had before them.

"I have to sell my idea, sell the way we're going to play and how we plan to go forward," he said.

"I only managed to get six caps and that still hurts me because I believe my career deserved more.

"I was very close to Italia 90 - I went on a pre-tour to Italy and I was one of the ones that was cut from the final selection.

"So a burning ambition of mine is to take a Scottish national team to a major tournament.

"It should be the pinnacle of any players' career to represent your country at a major tournament. That is what's in front of this current group of players.

"Hopefully we can achieve that."

While some experienced players retired during McLeish's time, and others were unavailable for games, the new manager demanded commitment and said he would want players what they could be missing out on.

"The door is open to everyone at this moment in time," Clarke said. "If players have retired, then they have to unretire myself.

"I won't be chasing down players who've retired. I'll respect that decision and if they want to return to the fold then they need to get in touch with me.

"The ones who have maybe pulled out of squads a little too easily , it's down to me to have the conversation with them to sell my vision of what we're going to do as a national team."

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