Scotland boss reveals 'emotional' Euro 2024 conversation with axed Hearts legend

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Current and former Jambos cut on eve of tournament

Scotland boss Steve Clarke praised Craig Gordon for his courage and commitment to the team after the “emotional” conversation that ended with the veteran goalkeeper being cut from the national team squad. Clarke revealed that he’d asked Gordon to play in tonight’s 2-2 draw with Finland at Hampden as a substitute, winning his 75th cap, despite the big goalie being left heartbroken on the eve of Euro 2024.

Clarke, who also cut former Jambos centre-half John Souttar from the final group heading to Germany, said he was never likely to take four keepers to the tournament. But, on a night when captain Andy Robertson dared his team-mates to dream big ahead of next Friday’s opener against the hosts, the national team manager admitted he hadn’t found it easy to leave Gordon behind.

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Clarke, who will take Hearts goalie Zander Clark to the tournament, admitted: “It was a really tough decision to leave Craig out. When I think of the injury he’s come back from. But over the period of time he’s been back, he hadn’t become the No. 1 at Hearts again, only seven games since December 2022 it’s a long time. And the dynamic of the squad, three goalkeepers have been together in every qualification match.

“It was a really tough conversation with Craig. Quite emotional to be honest. But it’s a mark of the man that he’s here tonight.

“Because, at the end of the conversation, I said: ‘Listen, I understand if you don’t like me and don’t want to do this. But I would like to give the 75th cap at Hampden tomorrow, in front of a good crowd. I wanted to do that here at Hampden.’

“Within one hour of telling him the news, he was down having dinner with the lads, in the meetings. He’s a great professional.

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“At the end of the game, we gave him a little award signed by all the lads, 75 on the back of his jersey. And as I was giving him it, I said: ‘I know Craig will throw this back in my face and say that 76, 77, 78, 79 and 80 are coming.’ That’s what Craig is like.”

Asked about dropping Souttar, who wasn’t with the squad at Hampden tonight, Clarke admitted: “Again, it was emotional. It’s really difficult to imagine how difficult it is to sit down with people who have always given their best for their country, and for them to get so close.

“At least the conversations were face to face this time. Because of Covid last time, it was over the phone. I got the chance to look the boys in the eye, they could look me in the eye. I think they understand how difficult it is for me, and I obviously really, really understand how difficult it is for them. But they were very professional, both guys.”

Scotland skipper Robertson said: “We have all come through it. You have something so big so close now, and you have to play a game to prepare it. I think the lads were really good all things considered.

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“We go onto that plane on Sunday full of dreams, and let’s go for it. There is a lot of emotion. We are going there to achieve our lifelong dreams. It feels so long we have been talking about it, now it’s on the horizon. We can look forward to it, our families can look forward to it and The Tartan Army can look forward to it.”

Finland coach Markku Kanerva backed Scotland to compete well at the Euros, saying: “They have a very tight group, with Germany as the home nation probably the favourites to win the group. Hungary and Switzerland are tough. But Scotland have shown they can compete against top teams like Spain. I believe they have good chances in the group.”

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