Steve Clarke has admitted he is keeping a close eye on Ben Doak, as pressure increases for the Scotland manager to include the 17-year-old Liverpool winger in his squad for the games against Spain and France next month.
Doak was a standout as Scotland’s under-21 team lost 1-0 against Spain this week. The former Celtic player has been included in Liverpool’s Europa League squad, fuelling confidence he will be handed a decent amount of first-team exposure this season. Clarke has taken note.
“Anybody who watched the under‑21 game on Monday night – and I did watch it – could see he is really good,” Clarke said of Doak. “In the first half I thought he was really good. In the second half he didn’t get in the game quite so much. He is a young man learning the game. I think going away and playing against Spain Under‑21s and being one of the highlights of the game is good for him.
“I was actually quite pleased with quite a lot of the young boys. I thought they did well, they competed well with Spain. So you look down and think: ‘Yeah, we can continue to improve.’ That is what we are trying to do.”
Pressed on whether he is tempted to fast-track Doak, Clarke said: “Let’s just see how things pan out. He is a young man, he is a very exciting talent, but sometimes you have to let them grow a bit.”
Clarke has warned his team they will have to play considerably better in Spain than was the case in the 3-1 defeat by England on Tuesday. The Scots – who won the corresponding fixture in Glasgow – would qualify for Euro 2024 with victory in Seville on 12 October. They play a friendly against France, in Lille, five days later.
“The players understand that it wasn’t a good performance, they understand that if we go to Spain and we play like that we will lose again,” Clarke said.
“We have to be better. They know that, they understand that if we want to get the points to qualify in Spain then we have to play much better.
“Spain are a good team. When they came here, maybe we caught them on an off night. Obviously they went to Georgia and had a good result and then got another good result against Cyprus. They won comfortably so they are looking after their goal difference. But the first thing it comes down to is head-to-head. If we go there and compete well I think we can still get something from the game.”