Steve Clarke said the intense international schedule put players’ fitness at risk and reduced training time to “10 minutes of form work” ahead of the Scottish World Cup qualifier against Austria.
The Scottish coach struggled with Covid-related issues and injury issues during the international break and believes preparations have also been hampered by the Wednesday-Saturday-Tuesday schedule for the triple header. Rangers right-back Nathan Patterson, who impressed in his first home game against Moldova on Saturday, Norwich midfielder Kenny McLean and Newcastle striker Ryan Fraser are the latest injuries, and Clarke claims workload was a factor.
“Unfortunately, Nathan and Kenny took blows in the Moldova game and with the quick turn they have no chance of making this game,” said Clarke, who has appointed vacant Hibernian’s Paul McGinn to replace Patterson. “Ryan Fraser was even more unlucky when he received a punch in training on Sunday that turned out to be more than we thought.
“It’s difficult for the players when the schedule is so tight because it’s really intense. Every game is a big game for us and we know that we have to pick from all points. So the guys give it full throttle – even on training days. It was a really tough schedule and a difficult time. “
Clarke is particularly unhappy with the timing of the first game against Denmark, three days after several squad members played for their clubs, and believes the schedule also disrupted training preparations.
“The schedule has been challenging with more than half of your squad playing on Sunday before you meet,” he said. “There are no training days before the game on Wednesday, there are no training days before the game on Saturday and there are no training days before the game on Tuesday. That’s the reality. There is no coaching time so you have to do all of your work remotely, you have to do it in the classroom and with the videos and all the tools that are there to help us. You don’t really have time on the pitch. Ten minutes of molding is the best you can do. “
Scotland would move up to second place in Group F with a win over Austria and Denmark win over Israel. Clarke doesn’t see the game in Vienna as crucial to Scotland’s hopes for a play-off spot. Israel will visit Hampden Park next month.
“The result the other day in Israel [where Austria lost 5-2] probably changed the dynamics of the group again, ”he said. “It was always an important game for us because Austria is runner-up and we drew at home. But Moldova at home was an important game. No matter what the result against Austria, if we play against Israel it will be an important game … Every game is important now. “