It’s been 23 years since a Scotland manager named a squad to head to an international tournament.
Not since Craig Brown picked his 23-man selection to head to France for the 1998 World Cup have so many Scottish footballers been anxiously waiting by the phone.
Back in ‘98, Brown omitted Ally McCoist, then 35, and Stuart McCall from his final squad. the McCoist decision was one he came to regret, as the strikers he did pick – Kevin Gallacher, Gordon Durie, Darren Jackson, Simon Donnelly and Scott Booth – failed to register at the tournament.
Who will Steve Clarke pick and will he have any regrets? We take a look at his options:
David Marshall, Craig Gordon and Jon McLaughlin look nailed on to be selected. The only possible wildcard is Allan McGregor after the Rangers veteran enjoyed a stellar campaign – in fact, keeping McLaughlin on the bench for the majority of the campaign.
The 39-year-old, however, retired from Scotland duty two years ago. His superb form, which earned him the SPFL player of the year award, has sparked calls for him to reconsider his Scotland stance – most notably from Kenny Dalglish and McCoist – but despite Marshall’s dip in form, Gordon playing in the Championship and McLaughlin’s lack of game time, it looks unlikely.
Clarke has played a three-man defence in qualifiers, meaning he could take up to six centre-halves.
One will be Kieran Tierney. Equally as comfortable at left back as he is on the left side of the trio, the Arsenal man is nailed on now his injury issues are hopefully behind him.
Out of the rest, Clarke can choose from Grant Hanley, Scott McKenna, Declan Gallagher, Jack Hendry, Andy Considine and Liam Cooper. Hibs’ Ryan Porteous is another option.
The wing-back options are easier. Captain Andy Robertson will start on the left with Celtic’s Greg Taylor the accepted back-up. On the right, Stephen O’Donnell is a shoe-in, probably alongside Liam Palmer.
Or maybe Nathan Patterson? He may have just 16 first-team appearances under his belt but Steven Gerrard believes he is one of Scotland’s “brightest prospects ever in terms of right-back”. Perhaps this tournament has come just a tad too early.
Here lies a bit of a dilemma for Clarke. His plans have been hit by the unfortunate injuries to penalty hero Kenny McLean and Rangers’ Ryan Jack, and there could be a couple of wildcard picks for the central berths.
Manchester United’s Scott McTominay will certainly go, and offers another option in centre defence should Clarke want to return to that experiment, while Aston Villa’s John McGinn has no concerns. A third Premier League star, Southampton’s Stuart Armstrong, should also be in, while John Fleck may be under pressure after failing to hit the heights of last season.
Callum McGregor should be named, but there are also a handful of options who could tempt Clarke, not least Chelsea youngster Billy Gilmour who has returned to the Blues’ team in recent games. The 19-year-old has a passing range and ability on the ball that is different from other players.
Then there is David Marshall. In a season of darkness and despair for Celtic supporters, Turnbull was able to emerge through the wreckage with 10 goals and eight assists, earning him the PFA Scotland young player of the year award.
The real wildcard could, however, be Ryan Gauld. Now 25 and settled back at previous loan club Farense, Gauld is finally justifying the early hype having almost single-handedly kept his club in Portugal’s top-flight. Gauld has managed nine man-of-the-match awards, nine goals and seven assists in 33 league matches.
Not as straightforward as it may once have looked. Ryan Fraser's ongoing injury problems have led to his Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce warning it would ‘be a gamble’ for Scotland to select him, while Oli McBurnie – a player who divides opinion – has been ruled out.
Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams have been converted to the Scotland cause, and will account for two places in the 26. But will they be joined by Hibs’ Kevin Nisbet or Dundee United’s Lawrence Shankland – or both?
Celtic’s Ryan Christie will add creativity and team-mate James Forrest is fit again but could there be another Celt involved? The extended squad could see Leigh Griffiths sneak in, while Sheffield-based duo Oliver Burke and Callum Patterson may miss out.
Possible 26-man squad: Marshall, Gordon, McLaughin; Hanley, McKenna, Gallagher, Hendry, Cooper, Tierney; Robertson, Taylor, O’Donnell, Palmer; McTominay, McGinn, Armstrong, Fleck, McGregor, Marshall, Gauld; Christie, Forrest, Fraser, Nisbet, Adams, Dykes.