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Steve Clarke: Evergreen James Forrest is great example to young Scotland players

Rejuvenated James Forrest back in Scotland squad (Jane Barlow/PA)
Rejuvenated James Forrest back in Scotland squad (Jane Barlow/PA)

Steve Clarke hailed evergreen James Forrest as an exemplary role model after he was named in Scotland’s Euro 2024 squad.

The 32-year-old Celtic winger last played for his country against Czech Republic during the previous European Championship in 2021.

Forrest was out of the international picture and seemed to be winding down his Hoops career but a storming return to the Celtic side in the last couple of months which brought another cinch Premiership winners’ medal.

He also has a chance of securing the Scottish Gas Scottish Cup at the expense of Rangers on Saturday, with his form earning him a place in Clarke’s provisional 28-man squad which will be whittled down to 26 players on June 7.

Liverpool’s 18-year-old forward Ben Doak and Bristol City defender Ross McCrorie, both uncapped, are also in the squad along with Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack, despite the latter being sidelined by injury since early March.

Clarke, who named an expanded squad to give himself breathing space because half a dozen players are not playing regularly or are coming back from injury, said: “James Forrest. Where do you start?

“If ever there is an example to young players on how to conduct yourself if things are not going well for you at your club, James epitomises that.

“Train well, work well, keep your head down, keep believing and you never know, maybe the head coach will pick you for your country and that’s what he’s done.

“He has had a fantastic finish to the season. He has caught the manager’s eye and again he will be one that grabs your attention with the finish to the season.

“You think, ‘wow, James is back to where he was three or four years ago which is a credit to him and something I didn’t think I could overlook.

“He obviously brings experience, he was part of the squad in the last Euros so it will be nice to see James again.”

On the inclusion of young Liverpool prospect Doak, a key player for the under-21s who is fit again after undergoing a knee operation in December, the former Kilmarnock and West Brom boss said: “Ben has got a lot of talent. He catches your eye.

“The pace is something we haven’t got in abundance in the squad so he is a little bit different. He’s a young man, he has got a lot to learn in the game.

“I have never had the chance to work closely with Ben so it just seemed like the right opportunity to put him in with the squad going from 23 to 26. So we will have a look at Ben and see how he does.”

Ryan Jack file photo
Ryan Jack is in the Scotland squad despite enduring an injury-ravaged season (Steve Welsh/PA)

Right-backs Aaron Hickey and Nathan Patterson will miss the tournament through injury along with Lewis Ferguson and Jacob Brown, which gives a chance to former Rangers defender McCrorie.

Clarke said: “Obviously I lost my two first choice right-backs, right wing-backs, Aaron and Nathan. Ross had a difficult time when he first went to Bristol City with quite a serious problem, got back in the team in the second half of the season and equipped himself well with some minutes under his belt.

“Another one who has been in squad before but hasn’t had a cap so a chance to look at Ross and see how he is doing.”

Jack missed the previous Euros through injury and has not played for Rangers since March 7 although he is fit again.

Clarke said: “Ryan has been quite an important part of the squad and the team in my time as head coach.

“He missed the last Euros unfortunately through injury. He hasn’t had the best finish to the season with Rangers but I know he has been fit for the last two or three weeks, he just hasn’t been selected at the club which is unfortunate for Ryan.

“He deserves to be there. He is a midfield player who is a little bit different to the other midfielders we have got. That was the thinking behind Ryan.”

Scotland play friendlies against Gibraltar on June 3 and Finland four days later before the Scots kick off the tournament against host nation Germany in Munich on June 14.

Goalkeepers: Zander Clark (Hearts), Craig Gordon (Hearts), Angus Gunn (Norwich), Liam Kelly (Motherwell)

Defenders: Liam Cooper (Leeds), Grant Hanley (Norwich), Jack Hendry (Al-Ettifaq), Ross McCrorie (Bristol City), Scott McKenna (Copenhagen), Ryan Porteous (Watford), Anthony Ralston (Celtic), Andy Robertson (Liverpool), John Souttar (Rangers), Greg Taylor (Celtic), Kieran Tierney (Real Sociedad)

Midfielders: Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), Ryan Christie (Bournemouth), Billy Gilmour (Brighton), Ryan Jack (Rangers), Kenny McLean (Norwich), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Scott McTominay (Manchester United)

Forwards: Che Adams (Southampton), Ben Doak (Liverpool), Lyndon Dykes (QPR), James Forrest (Celtic), Lawrence Shankland (Hearts)