Steve Clarke's Celtic audition already underway; Scotland vs Austria was a poor start

By David Walton

March 27, 2021

Scotland vs Austria was the first of a three-game week for Steve Clarke as he looks to kickstart the Tartan Army’s World Cup bid.

However, in the background, there’s a lot more to it than that. The 2-2 Hampden stalemate was also the first in a three-game audition that could seriously help his chances of being the next Celtic manager.

Clarke is reportedly on a shortlist of names to be the next Hoops boss. The Daily Mail reports that Celtic have spoken to Roy Keane and are also looking at Clarke along with other names.

But despite the likes of Jesse Marsch and Chris Wilder also being mentioned in the report, nobody has the same opportunity Clarke has. He has to showcase his work directly in front of a large section of the Celtic support – its Scottish followers. Indeed, the Scotland boss has a major chance to impress and get fans onboard with the prospect of his appointment.

Wins against Austria, Israel, and the Faroe Islands would’ve strengthened his cause. Especially if he managed to do it in style.

And that’s why things haven’t gone to plan so far. He had already lost the support of some Celtic fans by failing to call up David Turnbull. That was a major red flag. The next one was the performance Scotland produced against the Austrians on Thursday night.

John McGinn, Ryan Christie, Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay, Andrew Robertson, Kieran Tierney. Just some of the top-class individuals available to Clarke. Yet he has them playing in the most negative way imaginable.

Again, he went with one up top as the incredibly overrated Lyndon Dykes led the line. Behind him was Christie and that was it. Despite Tierney and Robertson both playing down the left, not one was advanced enough.

Steve Clarke not proving fun to watch; Scotland vs Austria was a grim showing

It looked as though Clarke didn’t even know how to get at the Austrians. It was the visitors who looked the more technically efficient and appeared to play better as a team. There’s still a major lack of understanding between these Scottish individuals.

Yes, Clarke set his teams up as hard to beat. As being hard to break through. But it’s also hard to watch at the same time. Steve hasn’t shown with Scotland that he can play the way Celtic fans like to see. And, worryingly, it doesn’t look as though he has much of an interest in doing so either.

He’s a history-maker after qualifying for Euro 2020 last year and ending Scotland’s qualifying drought. But he lost a lot of that credit by failing to take a point against Slovakia and Israel in the next two Nations League matches. That cost Scotland promotion to the “A” league, and a potential alternative route to the World Cup.

Scotland manager Steve Clarke / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The struggles against Austria, a game in which Scotland were fortunate to sneak a point from, weren’t a good sign. This was an opportunity for Clarke to show us all what he had learned in recent months. That he had been working on a formula to make Scotland more threatening and better to watch again.

After one game he’s failed to do that. Next up it’s Israel tomorrow at a venue Clarke lost at only months ago. If he’s to get Celtic fans onside regarding his potential appointment, he needs some big performances over the next few days.

This is an unofficial audition for the Celtic job. So far, he’s stumbling over his lines.

In other news, Celtic have produced a class Saturday training ground update.