STEVE Clarke has revealed that he wants to remain in charge of Scotland and lead them to the 2026 World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the United States.
Clarke was devastated on Wednesday night when the national team lost the Qatar 2022 play-off semi-final to Ukraine at Hampden 3-1.
But the disappointment has increased his determination to take his country through to the tournament and he has set his sights on being involved in four years’ time.
The 58-year-old, who is under contract until 2024, has admitted that he needs to qualify for the Euro 2024 finals in Germany to remain in the position he has held for three years.
However, speaking as he started preparations for the Nations League match against Armenia in Glasgow on Wednesday night, Clarke said: It is all about developing.
“That is why I keep going on about the age of this group of players. They are at an age when they should all keep improving, they should all get better.
“I don’t know, I might not get to ‘26, if they don’t get to ‘24. So I need them. I want them to help me because I want to go to a World Cup with my country and I told them that after the game. I said to them I can’t do that unless you get me to Euro 2024. So they can help me.
“That is serious. I would love to do it. It was a big ambition to go this year, it hasn’t worked. I would love to go in 2026, but obviously results and circumstances will dictate what happens to me.
“But this group of players, whether they are led by me or someone else, definitely can go 2024 and 2026. There are actually enough in the group that are young enough to even think beyond that. I am too old to think beyond that! I will just think to 2026.”
Clarke has been criticised by many members of the Tartan Army for his team selection, formation and tactics against Ukraine – but the Scotland manager is confident that supporters will remain firmly behind his men.
“I think the fans are onside,” he said. If we go back to the start; Cyprus at Hampden on a Saturday afternoon, nice weather with barely 20,000 inside the stadium. Kazakhstan at home in a midweek, booed off the pitch by the 18,000 or 19,000 who were there.
“So the fans are back onside. They will be disappointed but we need them to stick with us because we did this campaign together.
“Think back to Israel at home, the 3-2 game which was a massive result in the process to get there. There were still 50,000 in the stadium when we took that last corner. That was important. Then we played Denmark we had a full house to help and inspire the lads. That was important.
“We need the crowd. We have got them back onside and we need them to stay onside. Our performances on the park will dictate that, but in the short term we need the crowd. We need them next game.”
Clarke added: “I noticed that there were a few boos quite early in the game on Wednesday, but with raised expectations come bigger expectations. We understand that. Expectations have been raised, we have set good standards and we are all disappointed it hasn’t happened.
“Maybe four years ago or eight years ago it might just have been a shrug of shoulders and ‘oh well that is us, we are out’. I think this time everyone is genuinely disappointed we are not going and it is good that we are all gutted.
“I am gutted, the players are gutted and the supporters are gutted because it means we really felt we could do it this time. If they stick with this group of players I am pretty confident that 2024, 2026 can be good for this country.”