Hearts defender Craig Halkett in frame as Scotland boss Steve Clarke promises changes

Scotland manager Steve Clarke intends to utilise his squad in Tuesday's friendly against Austria – increasing the chances of Hearts defender Craig Halkett making his international debut.

The Scots drew 1-1 with Poland in a friendly at Hampden last Thursday and although his squad came through that match unscathed, Clarke – who generally maintains a consistency of selection where possible – plans to mix things up to give other players game time in Vienna.

That could mean debuts for Halkett and Ross Stewart, who were both late call-ups last week ahead of the Poland match. Halkett, 26, has been in outstanding for Hearts this season, operating predominantly at the centre of a three-man central defence.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Clarke admitted: “Yeah, I think looking at the bigger picture and in terms of fairness to the squad more than anything, taking out the club issues, this is the game that I will probably rotate a little bit more than I would do for the second game of an international break.

Hearts defender Craig Halkett is pictured as the Scotland depart the team hotel to travel to Austria ahead of Tuesday's friendly in Vienna

Asked if he had to consider resting some players given several of them have big games coming up at club level, Clarke said: "It is not too bad because the game is a Tuesday night for us.

"They can recover Wednesday, recover Thursday and be ready to go on Friday. Everyone will be fit and well for the weekend, injuries permitting of course."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Captain Andy Robertson returns to the fold after missing the Poland game through illness, while former Livingston striker Lyndon Dykes is deemed fit to return after a hamstring injury which QPR manager Mark Warburton said last week would prevent him playing any part in Scotland's double-header.

Asked if he had spoken with QPR, Clarke said: "Not since pre-camp. We obviously discussed the issue before the camp and then we were guided by QPR.

"They allowed him to come up and join us to watch the Poland game. He has done a couple of training sessions since and he is good to go."

Austria go into Tuesday's friendly under a cloud after their World Cup bid was ended by Wales in last Thursday's play-off semi-final in Cardiff.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Manager Franco Foda announced at his pre-match press conference on Monday that he would be stepping down after the Scotland game following more than four years in charge of the national team.

Reflecting on his counterpart's impending departure, Clarke said: "It's always disappointing when you hear a manager has lost his job.

"Franco has done a good job for his national team, they got to Euro 2020 and pushed Italy all the way in the knockout phase. He can be proud of the work that he has done."

Scotland helped add to Foda's problems when they pulled off a 1-0 victory in a World Cup qualifier in Vienna back in September.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"It is somewhere where we have been before," said Clarke. "We know we can go there and perform.

"The Austrians obviously had a big disappointment against Wales. Looking at it, how I would be as a player or manager or coach, I would be looking at the next game to try and get the previous game out of the system. So I expect a really competitive game.

"They will want to win to get back on an even keel. Obviously, it is a game where the manager has announced it will be his last game. So they will want to get on the pitch and do the best for their country, same as our boys."

Message from the editor

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Thank you for reading this article. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our sports coverage with a digital sports subscription.