Officially, Scotland’s upcoming ties against Georgia and Norway in Euro qualifying may be dead rubbers, given that Steve Clarke’s side have already qualified for the tournament.
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However, the lack of major-tournament experience within the player pool and niggling injuries to several key squad stalwarts mean the matches provide the manager with an excellent opportunity to assess depth and create, well, “teachable moments.”
For example, with Andy Roberts and Kieran Tierney both missing due to injury, Celtic’s Greg Taylor should get a run out at left back. The Greenock man thrived under Ange Postecoglou at Parkhead but at times has appeared to be a bit lost under current Hoops bench boss Brendan Rodgers.
With Tierney seemingly always injured, at this point, seeing if Taylor can hack it at the international level could be important. Confident performances against Europe’s best could only help Taylor at club level as well.
Similarly, an injury to former Hearts man Aaron Hickey means the likes of Nathan Patterson should see more playing time in the middle of the back line. At the same position, the upcoming fixtures also provide an opportunity to check in on Jack Hendry’s game, which may or may not be well served by his playing in the Saudi top-flight. Depth at this key position is vital, obviously.
Also at the back, Liam Kelly will get a look between the sticks, what with Angus Gunn out due to injury (notice a theme here?). Though Gunn likely remains Clarke’s first choice, he’s still only 27—and that’s young for a goalkeeper.
Finally, Clarke has options in the midfield as well. It’s unlikely Callum McGregor and John McGinn will sit these fixtures out entirely, but young-ish Lewis Ferguson should get some minutes in the middle of the park as well, given his fine form of late in Serie A, particularly with Che Adams having been ruled out due to injury.
“When you go away from home against a team like Georgia, it’s going to be a difficult environment,” Clarke told the media from the Scots’ training camp in Turkey. “For now, some boys are in the squad with the chance to make a big impression, not just on me but the rest of my staff and the rest of the country. Let’s see how they perform.”
Let’s see, indeed.