Steve Clarke is 'foundation' of Scotland success - Jack Hendry

Head coach Steve Clarke is the "foundation" for Scotland's upturn in form, insists defender Jack Hendry.

Clarke has steered Scotland to two successive European Championship finals, this time with two qualifying matches to spare.

Thursday's visit to Georgia will be his 50th game in charge and he is seeking a 25th victory.

"The manager has been massive for the full group, individually and collectively," said Hendry.

"He sets high standards and he believes in us, he gives us the belief to go and perform. He's very good at that.

"Tactically, he puts us in a position where we believe we can get results against bigger nations.

"The way the gaffer delivers messages and the way he works, the boys buy into it and feed off it.

"He's been the foundation for what's happened with the national team."

Former West Bromwich Albion, Reading and Kilmarnock boss Clarke took the Scotland job in May 2019.

In March, he signed a contract extension to 2026.

Since Tommy Docherty's 12-game reign in 1971-72, only Alex McLeish can boast a better winning percentage from his 10 matches in 2007.

And Clarke's impressive statistics have taken a hit with three defeats in a row to England, Spain and France.

"He keeps on progressing the group," added Hendry, who has collected all but one of his 27 caps under Clarke. "We need to continue that and not stand still.

"Coming away with Scotland is really enjoyable. We've built a tight bunch and that helps. Everyone mixes and integrates, there are no cliques.

"For me, the manager been brilliant and I can't speak highly enough of him. Hopefully, it's a relationship that lasts for a long time."

'Saudi league will be among strongest in world'

Hendry, 28, joined Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia over the summer and spoke to Clarke about the move, receiving assurances that it would not impact his international career.

Coached by Steven Gerrard, he has Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum and former Celtic team-mate Moussa Dembele in his side.

"I'm playing against world class strikers and that can only improve my game," he said.

"Day in, day out, I'm learning from people like Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson, who have been at the highest level."

Earlier this month, a tussle with Ronaldo attracted headlines and earned the centre-half the Portuguese superstar's shirt at full-time.

"The standard is high and, with them looking towards the 2032 World Cup, there will be a real drive for more improvements," he added. "I'm sure it will be one of the strongest leagues in the world very soon."

While a place in Germany next summer is already booked, Scotland, who trail Spain in Group A on goal difference, know wins away to Georgia and at home to Norway on Sunday would guarantee pot 2 status for the tournament draw.

It could be better in the unlikely event of Spain slipping up away to Cyprus and at home to Georgia.

Hendry is expecting a tough game in Tblisi, where Scotland lost in 2015 and 2007.

"We won't be complacent," he said. "We always want to win every game and, coming off the back of three really tough fixtures, it's important now to pick ourselves back up.

"We're fully concentrated and motivated to make sure that happens."

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