Scotland manager Steve Clarke believes the national team have to be targeting qualification for every major tournament as he prepares for another three years in charge.
On the eve of the new Euro 2024 qualifying campaign, the national team boss has committed to a new contract that will run until the end of World Cup 2026.
Clarke paid tribute to his staff and players for helping to deliver the results that, in his words, “persuaded the bosses to talk me into another two years”. He said that after extolling the virtues of continuity in squad selection over his time in charge so far, it was good to be able to offer that same stability in his own position.
The 59-year-old had spent all of his coaching career at club level before taking the Scotland job in 2019. With years of coaching experience, and time as a manager at West Bromwich Albion, Reading and Kilmarnock behind him, he admitted there had been a bit of a culture shock when taking on his responsibilities at Hampden.
Clarke said: “It’s a job where if you had asked nine months or twelve months into the job whether I would be an international manager and signing a second extension, I would have laughed at you. I couldn’t quite get my head around the nuances of the job.
“It is a different job and I’ve settled better into the role. That’s probably credit to the players because they’ve allowed me to feel comfortable in the role and to manage to get results.
“It’s kept us moving in a forward direction. Qualification for Euro 2020 was good. I’ve spoken before about the World Cup qualifying campaign. The group was good and losing in a one-off qualifying campaign was disappointing.
“That’s knock-out football, you can have an off day and you go out.
“To bounce back from that and get the Nations League promotion, to me it feels like continual improvement.”
That improvement can continue, but Clarke says the next stage will be difficult and the demands have to be high.
“I think we’ve improved a lot from when we came in until now,” he said. “The difficult bit is that the next improvements are very difficult to make.
“All the small details have to really add up so we can be really competitive and start qualifying for tournaments regularly. I don’t want us to go to 2024 but not to 2026.
“I want us to be going to 2028, 2030, 2032 finals and you want Scotland to be qualifying. I won’t be here by then though, don’t worry.
“You want the future to look good, to be competitive every time and go into every campaign thinking ‘We’ve got a chance here’.”