Scotland boss Clarke opens up on smiling assassin Shankland's Euro 2024 mindset

Clarke celebrates with Shankland as Hearts striker is substituted after scoring. Clarke celebrates with Shankland as Hearts striker is substituted after scoring.
Clarke celebrates with Shankland as Hearts striker is substituted after scoring. | SNS Group
Clarke pleased to see Hearts striker bounce back from Gibraltar low

Scotland boss Steve Clarke says he knew exactly what Lawrence Shankland’s goal against Finland meant to the striker – after seeing the grin plastered all over the Hears favourite’s face. Shankland bagged goal number 33 of the season to put the home side 2-0 up at Hampden last night, as Clarke’s men completed their final pre-Euro 2024 warm-up match without picking up any serious injuries.

The Tynecastle talisman hadn’t scored for the national team since bagging a late equaliser away to Georgia last November - and looked anything but a starting international striker in last week’s low-key win over Gibraltar. He is still likely to start the tournament as back-up to Scotland starting striker Che Adams, who was rested for last night’s 2-2 draw with the Finns purely as a precaution.

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But Clarke was thrilled to see Shankland hold off his marker to score with a header from an excellent Andy Robertson cross. And, asked how much that goal meant to the forward, the manager said: “Quite a lot I think; he gave me a big smile when he came off!

“It’s important because, listen, strikers live on goals. Lawrence was a little bit frustrated I think after the Gibraltar game because any chances that fell didn’t fall to him. But he kept getting in there against Finland - and he eventually got his head on one. Strikers live on goals.”

Jambos star Shankland was thrilled to find the net, although he insisted: “This week was just about getting minutes back in legs. It has been good. We would have loved to win the game and send everyone away happy, but we didn’t lose it, and everyone came through fit. Everybody is buzzing so we are looking forward to it.” 

Despite hitting the target, Shankland still looked slightly off the pace at times. In a game where players were clearly protecting themselves to avoid injury on the eve of the tournament, however, any goal has to be worth its weight in gold, when it comes to generating confidence.

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Clarke was also pleased to see Scotland Under-21 striker Tommy Conway bring some energy to the game as a second-half substitute. Even if the Bristol City forward did squander the one chance that fell to him in a lively half hour.

“Yeah, he should have scored,” said Clarke, with half a grin. “He should have scored. He shows that he does get into goal scoring positions, he’s capable of doing that. He’s told me that he’s saving his goals for Germany – which is fine. I’ll let him off with that.”

Explaining his decision to leave Adams and Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay on the bench, and insisting he was happy to see New York Red Bulls star Lewis Morgan make a ten-minute cameo, Clarke said: “There is no risk with Scott McTominay, no risk with Che Adams. “Lewis coming in off a long flight from America, he still looked lively when he came on. So they’re both good additions to the squad.

“Obviously when you lose players you’ve selected initially, you are always thinking what you can do to make the squad better. I think both boys came in and did OK.”