Scotland assistant manager John Carver has called criticism of Steve Clarke “hard to understand” after ending the Tartan Army’s exile from major tournaments and still having a shot at reaching next year’s World Cup finals in Qatar.
After a poor start to the qualifying campaign, there were some calls for Clarke to resign and allow someone to bring fresh idea to the national team and Carver insists it is strange with Scotland still able to pull off a “remarkable” second-place finish in their group.
Wins over Austria and Moldova have propelled Clarke’s side to within touching distance of a first World Cup finals appearance in almost quarter of a century and this Saturday’s clash with Israel is now a must-win for the Tartan Army if they are to reach the finals.
That’s left Carver bemused at some of the stick aimed at Clarke and the experienced coach has taken aim at those criticising the manager.
“I find it hard to understand how people can criticise him and I’ve been in this game a long, long time,” Carver said.
“I’ve seen the work he’s done, I’ve seen the work other managers have done, and I’m a little bit disappointed when I do hear that criticism.
“I don’t read it. I don’t watch it on TV but I’m surprised to be honest.
“We’ve got to one major tournament after so many years and we’re on the verge of giving ourselves another opportunity.
“Let’s face it, when the draw came out and you saw Denmark, Austria and to a lesser extent Israel you’re thinking to yourself, ‘If we can get second place that would be remarkable,’.
“We’re in the position where it’s in our hands which is why I find the criticism a bit strange.”
Clarke criticism deserved despite Carver finding it ‘strange’
While Scotland could find themselves securing a playoff place for the World Cup, it doesn’t remove some of the valid criticisms aimed at Clarke earlier in the campaign.
Poor performances in the early games could have seen Scotland in a much stronger position and be closer to nailing down a place in Qatar – and there’s still plenty of work to be done before the Tartan Army should be looking at ways to get to the Middle East.
If Scotland can make it to the World Cup, Clarke will feel some level of vindication but it could quite easily end in glorious failure with the Tartan Army once more left watching from a distance as the world’s best national teams compete in the desert.
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