Advertisement

Clarke on Euro dream, calm exterior & making dad proud

"My dad had a good life," says Steve Clarke of his father Eddie, who passed away earlier this year, a victim of dementia.

"He had a long life, gave us a good upbringing. Him and my mum brought up eight children. There's a bit of him in me and I'd like to think there's a bit of mum as well."

Eddie Clarke was a football man and the guiding light of his son's career.

Strict, but ever-present in his boy's transition from Beith Juniors to St Mirren and onwards to the bright lights of London, where he became one of Chelsea's most respected players.

"My dad gave us good standards, good morals, and hopefully we can make him proud," he adds.

"He probably understood that I was manager of Scotland, but then, with the dementia, he didn't really. I don't think he was retaining any of the information.

"He saw me through my whole career. He was always there to support me and it's sad that he didn't really have a good grasp at the end that his son was manager of Scotland and actually doing okay in the job."

Recent scoreline and injury disappointments apart, Clarke is doing better than okay.

In Meet Steve Clarke, he talks about his time in football, from his early days in Scotland to the move to London in his early twenties with a wife and an 18-month-old daughter.

Big games, big characters and a move into coaching sparked by his late friend, Gianluca Vialli, his then manager at Chelsea.

"That last summer [as a player], Luca said to me, 'Come on, Clarkie, we go to Bermuda'," he explains. "We played some golf and he said, 'Clarkie, you're going to be a coach."

He laughs as he recalls how it played out. "So, in the nicest possible way, and probably the one person that I would have accepted it from was Luca, he ended my playing career and sent me on a different road. Probably did me a favour."

Clarke is on a run of one win and a draw in nine and has lost a coterie of important players to injury for the Euros.

But he remains a rock. Never too high, never too low. Just solid.

His ability to remain calm no matter what kind of mayhem is crashing around his ears will be put to the test again on Friday, when the eyes of European football will be on him and his team as they face the hosts in Munich.

Can Scotland get out of group at 'proper tournament'?

The Allianz Arena will reverberate to the sound of 75,000 lucky souls, a far cry for Scotland's opener at the last Euros which took place in a relative whisper at Hampden in Covid times.

Clarke knows it's going to be different in Germany.

"I'm probably wrong to say this but I'm going to say it anyway… It feels more like a proper tournament, because you're going to one country, there's going to be full houses and we're involved in the glamour game. I'm excited."

All sorts of things drive him onwards.

This might be back-to-back European championships for Scotland but he still regrets missing out on the World Cup in Qatar, a flat performance in the play-off with Ukraine at Hampden ending their hopes.

"We've qualified for two major tournaments but we missed the one in the middle," he says. "I wanted three in a row. I probably didn't get the team quite right on the night. And suddenly your World Cup adventure is over and that was sore to take.

"There's still a little bit inside me that hurts from that. I think we deserved to go to the World Cup, but if you don't turn up in the play-off games, that's what can happen."

Clarke has spoken before about his visits to Hampden as a kid.

Formative football years, those. The 1973 game against Czechoslovakia that secured qualification for the 1974 World Cup. Joe Jordan and all that.

"I was just a little one," he says. "I don't think I could see what was going on, but it didn't matter, I was there.

"The atmosphere going into the game, the stadium, the Hampden Roar, which was a proper Hampden Roar in those days [attendance: 95,786] left an impression.

"If you don't soak up that atmosphere and enjoy it, you're not living."

He calls it incredible that Scotland have never made it out of a group at a major championship.

He's sitting in the Hall of Fame at Hampden surrounded by the photographs of immortal Scottish players and managers and kind of puffs out his cheeks at the thought that none of these legends have done what his team is now trying to do.

"When you get to that sort of level of competition, you have to get everything right, not just nearly everything right," he says.

"And that's what Scotland teams haven't been able to do in the past.

"We should have done it, but we didn't. We messed it up. Hopefully, we can be the first squad to do it."

A version of this piece first appeared in April