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Scotland legend Joe Jordan backs Oli McBurnie as Steve Clarke faces striker conundrum

© SNS GroupOli McBurnie shows his passion for playing with Scotland
Oli McBurnie shows his passion for playing with Scotland

Lyndon Dykes is the name on everyone’s lips right now as Scotland prepare for action for the first time this year.

Steve Clarke has included QPR’s £2-million buy from Livingston in his squad for Friday’s Nations League qualifier against Israel at Hampden, and the trip to face the Czech Republic three days later.

The 6ft 2in striker still has to prove his worth down south. He is also being chased by Australia and may well yet end up giving his allegiances to his country of birth.

But Scotland legend Joe Jordan reckons Clarke already has the answer for the national team’s centre-forward position, and believes Oli McBurnie is the man for the job.

McBurnie cost Sheffield United £20m last summer from Swansea City, and it took him a while to settle at his new club.

But, post-lockdown, he really has looked a force to be reckoned with, and will want to carry that form into the new season, starting with this week’s tie against the Israelis.

© PA
Joe Jordan after scoring one of his 11 Scotland goals

Jordan was the epitome of everything you would want in a Scotland striker – brave, physical, skilful, good in the air and with the ability to put the ball in the net, witness his 11 goals in 52 appearances in dark blue.

He remains the only player to have scored for us in three separate World Cup Finals.

Few would put those currently battling for the No.9 jersey in the same bracket as Jordan.

One thing not in doubt, however, is McBurnie’s commitment to Scotland, and Jordan believes he can help the team to success in the coming months and grab his first goal for his country.

Jordan told The Sunday Post: “I’m not sure what Steve will decide to do with regards to the centre-forward position.

“He has options but, like all managers, he would probably have preferred one or two more bits of quality to give him as much variety as possible.

“One man who will most definitely be in the frame is Oli McBurnie. He is a handful and has a presence.

“He appeared to take a wee while to settle after he moved to Sheffield United from Swansea City.

“But he really caught the eye after lockdown.

“I thought he looked the part, led the line well, was a real threat in the box and looked every inch a Premier League striker.

“What Sheffield United achieved last season was absolutely brilliant. Chris Wilder and his staff deserve enormous credit.

“It was their first season in the Premier League, and they took to it all instantly. Nothing appeared to leave them on the back foot and they were prepared for all eventualities.

“Now, they will look to show they are not one-season wonders and that will be the message Chris and his staff will be giving

“Some people will want to see them fall over in the new season – and that will be used as motivation in the Sheffield United dressing room.

“Oli should be looking to kick on and improve even further.

“He has good ability, but there will be improvement needed in some areas as he is still young and learning certain aspects of the game.

“However, he should get better and better, and if he can keep growing with the Sheffield United manager and team, then he will have a really bright future.

“He will want to make the Scotland centre-forward jersey his own.

“Playing for your country is a special experience, and to be a part of something successful is a brilliant feeling.

“Steve Clarke will have Oli and every other player buying into that.

“He may also be trying to sell that story to Lyndon Dykes.

“I watched him on the telly playing for Livingston, and he definitely has something about him.

“Mark Warburton and his staff will work hard to develop him even further at QPR, and that can only be good for Scotland – providing, of course, he commits 100% to our country.

“Then Steve has other options in Lawrence Shankland, Stevie Naismith and one or two others.

“We know we are very, very strong in certain areas, with Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney playing at the very top level in England.

“But we maybe lack a bit of depth in the central-defensive area.

“Kieran, however, could perhaps slot in there if Steve fancies that. Certainly, he looked very comfortable in that position for Arsenal towards the end of last season as part of a back three.

“So we will all wait and see what the manager comes up with. I’m sure he will have a plan.”

© Andre Fosker/BPI/Shutterstock
Lyndon Dykes has recently joined QPR

Jordan is a huge admirer of Steve Clarke.

The former Hearts and Bristol City gaffer said: “Steve deserves to be the Scotland manager.

“You look at his track record, and he has coached at the highest level and been alongside managers such as Jose Mourinho and Kenny Dalglish.

“He has also been his own man at Reading, West Brom and Kilmarnock, and delivered success in different ways.

“At Rugby Park, he took over a team that was near the bottom of the table and probably lacking in a bit of confidence.

“He got them going very quickly, and they climbed the table.

“The players clearly believed in what he was saying, and they followed his instructions to the letter.

“They were organised and well-structured at the back, but they also attacked with flair and in good numbers.

“Steve built partnerships in all areas of the team, and that is key to any success, whether it is a front two, central defenders or a left-back and left-midfielder.

“You need to know about one another, and be aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

“It’s a wee bit of a gift for any manager to be able to get so many different areas of a team clicking so well.

“Quite simply, he improves footballers and gets results. It’s an ideal formula.

“That’s why Steve thoroughly deserved a promotion, and being the Scotland manager is a prestigious job.

“I’m sure he is very proud to have the job, and will be doing everything in his power to deliver success to the nation.

“The games coming up against Israel and Czech Republic are exactly what Steve has been waiting for.

“It’s been nearly a year since he has taken charge of a game, and he will be desperate to get to work with the players in the coming days.

“We can’t undervalue the importance of the next two games.

“But we all know that the Euro 2020 semi-final against Israel in October is key to the overall progress.

“We want victory in that, and that leads to the play-off, either away to Norway or Serbia.

“Fingers crossed for Steve and the players. The whole nation will be behind them.”

Jordan will watch the games on the television.

Having been at three World Cup Finals with Scotland – in 1974, 1978 and 1982 – he knows what it’s like to be at the highest level with his country.

He spent the latter part of his coaching career as part of Harry Redknapp’s coaching staff at Spurs, Portsmouth and QPR.

Now 68, he has not given up hope of getting back involved in the game.

Jordan said: “I’d love the phone to ring one day, and for someone to be on the other end offering me a chance.

“I still feel I have something to offer, and would gladly go in and assist a young manager, or a more-experienced manager.

“I love the game and want to be involved, it’s as simple as that.

“But you need to be given an opportunity.”