For years, decades even, Scotland struggled to come up with an explanation for their national team’s failures on the international stage. A root-and-branch review into the structure of Scottish football was even conducted by the country’s former First Minister Henry McLeish as the long wait for major tournament qualification. That clock on that wait was stopped at 23 years, with Scotland set to participate in Euro 2020 this summer.
For all the talk of grassroots reform and league reconstruction, the secret to the country’s newfound success is simply that they now have better players, like Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Scott McTominay and John McGinn, the best Scottish players in the Premier League. Despite this, Scotland have struggled to find a dependable goalscorer to lead the line. This is why last week’s call-up of Che Adams was so significant.
The Southampton striker is the sort of player Steve Clarke previously lacked. With Leicester-born Adams convinced to represent Scotland, the country’s national team is more complete and could be a greater attacking threat in Euro 2020 as a result.
Another centre forward, Australia-born Lyndon Dykes, was also drafted into the Scotland squad last year with the Queens Park Rangers striker playing a key role in the playoff wins over Israel and Serbia. But while Dykes is perfect for Clarke’s system, he isn’t much of a natural goalscorer. He is a facilitator who brings the best out of others around him.
Adams, however, is all about putting the ball in the back of the net. The 24-year-old has scored three goals in his last four appearances for Southampton, compensating for the absence of Danny Ings through injury and going some way to justifying the £15 million paid for him in the summer window of 2019.
Clarke is likely to stick with Dykes as the apex of the Scotland attack for Euro 2020, but Adams could play as one part of a two-pronged frontline, as he does for Southampton. Nothing is certain until it’s put into practice, but the theory appears solid that the two strikers will work well together as a pairing.
“It’s the right time first of all because he showed an inclination to play for Scotland,” Clarke said, recently, referencing how Clarke was previously spoken to by former national team manager Alex McLeish about a call-up. “That makes a big, big difference. We spoke about the future. We didn’t speak just about the near future, we spoke about the far future. For me Che, at 24 years of age, can hopefully go on to have a long and hopefully distinguished Scotland career.”
The outlook is much brighter for Scotland than it has been in years, in the long term as well as in Euro 2020. It’s not just Robertson, Tierney, McTominay and McGinn, who are all key figures at the top of the English game. Young talents like Billy Gilmour and David Turnbull could become mainstays of the national team in the very near future and will be hoping to add their names to the list of the best Scottish footballers ever.
Stuart Armstrong, one of Adams’ Southampton teammates, appears to be getting better and better and could be an important link between the midfield and attack for Scotland at Euro 2020. Callum McGregor and Ryan Jack give Clarke structure in the centre of the pitch while Ryan Christie has become something of a talisman for the national team. The turnaround in Scotland’s fortunes has been dramatic.
He might not have come through the Scottish academy system or represented the country at youth level, but Adams’ call-up only adds to the sense that Clarke’s team could make a good impression this summer. Scotland spent over two decades trying to qualify for a major tournament and now that they’re back at that level Adams is one of the players who could help them thrive at Euro 2020.
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