When does concern set in for Clarke?

Scotland
Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke has warned that Rangers are not the only team looking to make amends for a disappointing weekend.

For the first time in many years, there were few who looked at the appointment of Steve Clarke as Scotland head coach and felt disgruntled.

The former Kilmarnock boss had just helped Killie finish in third place in the Scottish Premiership behind Celtic and Rangers, thanks to some impressive football.

A wealth of experience both north and south of the border in coaching, it was welcomed as a very sensible selection by the SFA following the debacle of Alex McLeish’s return to Hampden Park.

Things started off positively for Clarke, as the Scots opened his reign by scraping past Cyprus in Glasgow with a 2-1 victory.

Granted his three following games were tough but Scotland went on to suffer heavy defeats to Belgium home and away, along with a loss at Hampden Park to Russia.

With the Russians coming up next in Moscow on Thursday, Clarke is staring down the barrel of a fourth consecutive defeat, with automatic qualification for Euro 2020 already gone.

The Scots’ hope of reaching their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup comes via the play-off semi-finals next year.

Now, the real question is in what state will the side be in ahead of those crucial games if they don’t show significant signs of improvement? Will they be damaged goods before those crunch games to decide if they can sneak into Euro 2020?

The problem for Clarke is that they won’t really be tested to the extent they would like following the trip to Russia.

Scotland’s remaining games of 2019 come against San Marino, Cyprus and Kazakhstan; all matches the Scots would be hoping to win with some to spare.

This does not really give Clarke much chance to silence the slowly emerging critics or get his side really battled hardened for the play-offs. Win those last three games and they will have done what is expected of them.

However, a draw or heaven forbid a defeat in one or more of those matches against San Marino, Cyprus and Kazakhstan, then the SFA could find themselves in a difficult position of stick or twist before the play-offs when it comes to the manager.

Scotland fans will be hoping for some consistency and that Clarke will be given time to try and implement his style on the team, which is clearly lacking confidence after their three successive defeats.

But with all the Scots’ eggs in one basket when it comes to reaching Euro 2020, it could be a nervous few months to see where Clarke’s stock is before the new year.

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