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New Scotland boss Clarke says door is open for exiled internationals

9:41 AM EDT 5/21/19
Steve Clarke Scotland
The former Kilmarnock manager is looking to wipe the slate clean following Alex McLeish's reign, and would welcome back those who have left the fold

Newly announced Scotland manager Steve Clarke says players who have retired or made themselves unavailable for international duty are welcome to return – but he won’t be chasing them down.

Several players, including Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser and Newcastle's Matt Ritchie, have pulled out of recent squads while the likes of James McArthur, Allan McGregor and Scott Brown have retired from the international game.

But Clarke is wiping the slate clean and starting afresh as he looks to bring back some optimism to Scotland fans, and he won’t turn away those who dropped out under Alex McLeish.

"The door is open to everyone. If players have retired, they have to un-retire themselves," Clarke said.

"If they want to come back to the fold they have to get in touch with myself or the Scottish FA and say they want to make themselves available.

"I won't be chasing down players who have retired. I only want players who are 100% committed to Scotland."

Clarke was appointed after a hugely successful spell with Kilmarnock, his first involvement in Scottish football since leaving St Mirren as a player way back in 1987.

Taking over in October 2017 with Kilmarnock bottom of the Scottish Premiership, they finished 2018-19 in third – their highest league finish since 1966.

Now, with qualifying games against Cyprus and Belgium in June, he is setting his sights on Euro 2020 and he wants all of his players to share his vision of a successful future.

"A burning ambition of mine is to take Scotland to a major tournament,” he said.

“It should be the pinnacle of any players' career to get to a World Cup finals with their country.

"The ones who have maybe pulled out of a squad a little too easily, it's down to me to have that conversation with them, to sell my vision of what we're going to do as a national team and how we'll approach this tournament.”

Scotland started their qualifying campaign with a humbling 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan and a laboured victory over San Marino, and Clarke knows he may face a battle to get fans excited about their team again.

"We want to make the Tartan Army proud of their team,” he said.

“The numbers have dwindled but it's my job to make sure the players are focused. I'll give everything I have to qualify through the group stages.

“We have slipped up and have to pick up points - the two games in June are crucial."