The International Kilmarnock Scotland Build From The Back With Steve Clarke

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The International Kilmarnock Scotland Build From The Back With Steve Clarke

You drive past streets that would have been heaving, park up in an acreage of free spots, pull on your mask, have your temperature checked and get escorted to your seat in an empty stadium where every shout from the pitch below is heard, every swear, every exhalation of pain and fury – and by now it seems routine. Everyday.

At Hampden on Sunday, it reached the point where it was difficult to imagine what the place would have been like with fans, colour and noise. You almost pined for the Tartan Army’s daft songs, but the memory is getting distant.

We’ve been existing in this parallel universe for so long now that it’s hard to know what is normal and what is not. The thought of tens of thousands of people inside a stadium has become difficult to imagine, as if the idea of living, breathing grounds was some kind of dream. It’s been a while.

Things are changing in this odd football world. Scotland have not lost a game of international football in a year.

The players look like they’re enjoying themselves where before they were haunted and hangdog. Watching them smiling, laughing, encouraging and cajoling against Slovakia was instructive. The back slaps, the hand slaps, the little words of encouragement – the togetherness was obvious.

Thursday’s penalty shootout success against Israel might have been even more significant than any of us thought at the time. A victory – and possibly a liberation.

Scotland’s defence, so long the cause of palpitations, is looking organised and hard to break. The three-at-the-back system, initially the subject of derision, is bedding in. What was once considered the greatest problem has, in recent times, become a strength. Nobody saw that coming.

Steve Clarke has been missing Kieran Tierney, Scott McKenna and, on Sunday, Liam Cooper. And yet Scott McTominay, who is growing into the role of right centre-back with every game, and Declan Gallagher were impressive again. And Andrew Considine enjoyed a fine debut at the age of 33, rarely looking troubled.

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The point has been made by some that it’s not a whole lot of fun watching this Scotland team. You’ve been waiting 22 years for something decent to happen. Give it time.

What Does Victory Say About Three Lions’ Progress

The international Kilmarnock? Not a lot wrong with that at this stage of the team’s development. Kilmarnock under Clarke achieved results that their budget and playing resources should have made improbable. They won in places where they weren’t expected to win. They secured a place in the league table that nobody thought them capable of securing. Is that not the very essence of what is hoped for now?

Clarke’s progress is undoubted and it’s rooted in making Scotland tough to play against. The manager is way further down that road than he is in making them easy on the eye in victory, but he’s seven without loss and he has momentum. Be honest, did any of us think that this patch of positivity was happening any time soon?

The International Kilmarnock Scotland Build From The Back With Steve Clarke

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