Steve Clarke hails Ryan Porteous after 'outstanding' Scotland debut and explains summer re-set
Scotland boss Steve Clarke has hailed Ryan Porteous for an “outstanding debut” in the 0-0 draw with Ukraine, insisting it shows that the Hibs defender “listens and learns”.
The 23-year-old from Dalkeith has had his critics but put on a defensive masterclass alongside Jack Hendry in an inexperienced back four to help Hearts keeper Craig Gordon keep the clean sheet that was needed in Krakow to win Nations League Group B1.
"Porteous was outstanding for a debut,” said Clarke. “So pleased for the boy, shows that he listens that he learns. I'm also so pleased for Jack Hendry – big ask for Jack. Everyone expects Callum McGregor and John McGinn to play three games with that intensity, but I had to ask Jack to do that again – he was struggling a bit with a cold, but he was outstanding in all three games.”
He added: “Ukraine are a very good team, we knew they'd have moments in the game, and ask Craig [Gordon] to make saves – he did that as he always does.”
The result secures promotion to Nations League A and means Clarke's side have also guaranteed place among second seeds for Euro 2024 qualifiers and a play-off place.
After crashing out of the World Cup play-offs to Ukraine in the summer and then losing away to the Republic of Ireland, the manager is proud of the way his squad have bounced back with home wins over Ukraine and Ireland and a gritty draw.
“We wanted to show people that what happened in the summer wasn't us,” added Clarke. “We wanted to be better this week, we pressed a big button to reset. Three fantastic performances, all different, but all vital.”
The Scotland manager added: "In terms of moving on from summer camps, I sat down with the whole staff and said we have to set a different environment, demand more of the players. Then I sat down with the players, and gave them a lot of information to change the system and play a slightly different way. These players are desperate to do well for their country and they have had a great week.
“We went to Serbia and got the result in the [Euro 2020] play-off to get to our first tournament in a long time, we had the [World Cup] play-off where we came up just short. We had the European Championship, where we got to the last game and came up just short. We've done it again and taken this campaign to the last game. I asked the players to take the next step, because then we'll feel good about ourselves.
"The connection between the players and fans is fantastic. We don't want to stop, we want to keep getting better. With this group of play-offs I don't think we'll need the play-offs."