Scotland boss Clarke wary of over-hyping Liverpool sensation Doak

National team head coach preaches patience in treatment of teen sensation

Ben Doak is on the fringes of the Liverpool first-team squad.Ben Doak is on the fringes of the Liverpool first-team squad.
Ben Doak is on the fringes of the Liverpool first-team squad.

Scotland coach Steve Clarke has urged fans to be patient in their rush to hail Liverpool wunderkind Ben Doak as the new Tartan Army messiah.

The buzz around 17-year-old sensation Doak, already building with each cameo appearance for Jurgen Klopp’s men, reached a new intensity following the livewire attacker’s electrifying performance as Scotland lost 1-0 to Spain in Monday night’s European Under-21 Championship qualifier in Jaen.

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With pundits and punters alike hailing the teenager’s ability to go past players and torment defenders, national team head coach Clarke was asked about the chances of “fast tracking” Doak into the senior squad – possibly for next month’s glamour doubleheader away to Spain and then France.

A cautious Clarke said: “Let’s just see how things pan out. He is a young man, he is a very exciting talent, but sometimes you have to let them grow a bit.

“Anybody who watched the under-21 game on Monday night, and I did watch it, could see he is really good.

“In the first half I thought he was really good, in the second half he didn’t get in the game quite so much.

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“He is a young man learning the game. I think going away and playing against Spain Under-21s away and being one of the highlights of the game is good for him.

“I was actually quite pleased with quite a lot of the young boys. I thought they did well, they competed well with Spain. So you look down and think: ‘Yeah, we can continue to improve.’ That is what we are trying to do.

“I think a squad should always be a work in progress. Because otherwise you end up with everybody growing old together. So your squad should always be a work in progress.

“You are always looking to see how you can improve, whether that is from the pool of personnel I have got at the moment or adding one or two to the current pool.”

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Scotland remain strong favourites to qualify for next summer’s European Championship Finals despite Norway’s 2-1 home win over Georgia on Tuesday night denying Clarke’s men the honour of becoming the first team to book their place in Germany.

They travel to play group rivals Spain in Seville on October 12 before heading to Lille for a friendly against the French five days later.

If Doak is unlikely to be risked against the Spanish senior squad, it wouldn’t be impossible to imagine him being involved against France, depending on his game time for Liverpool in the interim.

Setting his sights firmly on the long term, head coach Clarke stressed the importance of constantly refreshing the group, saying: “We want to qualify for the next tournament and the next one and the next one and the next one. We don’t want to go through a run of 20 years where we are not qualifying for tournaments again. The evolution of the squad is important.

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“It’s in a cycle. They have obviously had one tournament, a play-off defeat and another tournament. At the moment, it looks as if we are getting closer to qualification for another one. I think we are in the middle of a cycle.”