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Former Scotland boss Craig Brown challenges Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths to make Steve Clarke pick him

© Jeff Holmes/ShutterstockCraig Brown would love to see Leigh Griffiths get his chance to show Steve Clarke what he could bring to Scotland
Craig Brown would love to see Leigh Griffiths get his chance to show Steve Clarke what he could bring to Scotland

Scotland manager Steve Clarke could do worse than get Leigh Griffiths into the squad for next month’s Euro 2020 play-off final against Serbia, according to former boss Craig Brown.

The last manager to take the country to a major international tournament, Brown believes that Griffiths can still conjure up a moment of magic that could fire Scotland to this summer’s European Championships.

The striker has been a bit-part player since returning from lockdown, overweight and out of condition, but has slowly returned to Neil Lennon’s squad.

And Brown has challenged Griffiths to use the next three weeks to make himself impossible for Clarke to ignore.

“You look at those free-kicks against England and I just don’t think there is anyone else we have available who has that capability,” said Brown.

“When you know that you have a real asset if you get a set piece in a game when you might only have one or two chances, I think you have got to get him in, even if it is just on the bench.

“We all know he needs to get fitter and sharper because he has played so little football. But if I was in Steve’s shoes he would most definitely be in my thoughts. You would never write him off in the box.

“It is up to him to take whatever chance he gets with Celtic between now and the next three weeks so that he has to be there.

“Nobody else outside of Scotland understands the word ‘gallus’ but he has a bit of that about him, that’s for sure.”

© SNS Group
Craig Brown

Clarke will take Scotland into the game on the back of an unbeaten eight-game run.

The last time that happened Clarke himself was in the Scotland set-up.

“He is always reminding me that he never got as many caps as he deserved,” joked Brown.

Regardless of the manner of the magnitude of the challenge that lies in wait against a Serbian side who beat Norway in the semi-final, having confidence and momentum can be vital going into the final.

“You just cannot underestimate the confidence within a dressing room who are not losing games,” said Brown.

“I would be delighted to see us back at a major tournament.

“The positivity of the moment can be so crucial, although I am fully aware of how good a team Serbia are. A good friend of mine is Serbian and runs Café Le Monde in Ayr. He has had me watch them for a good while now so I know just what a good team they are.

“But I like the 3-5-2 that Steve is using. Again, that is the same system we used to qualify for the 1998 World Cup. I picked Paul Lambert’s brain on it because it was used by Dortmund and Bayern Munich at the time.

“I think it gives you real scope because you can get two strikers on to the pitch and that is always going to give you a better chance of scoring. It also gives you width and it’s a system I have always felt is geared towards keeping things tight at the back – if everyone does their job – while giving you the chance of goals at the other side of the pitch.”

Brown took Scotland through a 10-game World Cup and European Championships campaign in which he lost only three goals in each qualification journey.

Keeping clean sheets is the foundation on which any successful team is built, and he is delighted to see that Scotland suddenly have a bit of solidity about them.

“I was lucky with two exceptional goalkeepers,” he went on.

“Jim Leighton kept 42 clean sheets from the 91 caps that he won with Scotland.

“If he had been German or Italian or English they would have raved about him. I also had Andy Goram, who I gave the nod to for Euro 96, when he was in the form of his life.

“But I think we’ve seen really good stuff from David Marshall. He looks confident and capable and I really do like the system with a back three.”