Why Sheffield Wednesday ace Steven Fletcher missed out on the latest Scotland squad
Steve Clarke has explained why he left Owls striker Steven Fletcher out of his first Scotland squad ahead of their forthcoming European Championship 2020 qualifiers against Cyprus and Belgium.
Fletcher was one of Wednesday's standout performers last term as Steve Bruce's men secured a top-half Championship finish. The 32-year-old, recruited on a free transfer nearly three years ago, top-scored with 11 goals to help the Owls end a turbulent campaign in 12th position.
Clarke, who also overlooked Wednesday midfielder Barry Bannan for selection but called up defender Liam Palmer, said: “He is not getting any younger.
"I understand having been a club manager that, when you get to the end of a long hard season, your body is tired, you need some time to recover.
"I think Steven would be in that situation. So not definitely injured but needing the recovery for his own sake."
One national newspaper claimed Fletcher is being rested due to "ankle issues".
But the experienced forward is not the only notable absentee from Clarke's 27-man squad. There are no places for Matt Ritchie or Robert Snodgrass, who had been missing from recent squads whilst managing fitness issues, while Sheffield United’s John Fleck has been given dispensation to miss the matches because he is getting married.
Hull City goalkeeper David Marshall and Fulham midfielder Tom Cairney have been recalled.
Clarke, who has named five uncapped players in his squad, including Kilmarnock defenders Stuart Findlay, Greg Taylor and forward Eamonn Brophy, insists he had held "lots of really positive conversations" with players who are not in the squad.
He added: “I’m not going to close the door on anybody. If it takes two or three conversations and I feel that they are the right people to help the squad, to make the squad better, then I am prepared to keep trying.
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“Hopefully you will see over the time I’m in the job we can get these players to come and play for us.
"What’s happened before has happened before. There’s nothing I can do about that. It’s my job to speak to these players and try to convince them – not even convince them, make them know they are wanted in Scotland. I think if you make people feel wanted, then they are more likely to come and play for you.
“There’s enough talent in that squad to get results in both games, I’m convinced of that.”
Clarke confirmed his Alex Dyer, his No 2 at Kilmarnock, will be his assistant until the end of the current qualifying campaign at least while Steven Reid will also join the backroom staff as coach.
Scotland entertain Cyprus at Hampden Park on June 8 before Clarke's side travel to take on Belgium three days later. The Scots have one win from two matches in Group I.
Goalkeepers: Scott Bain (Celtic), Liam Kelly (Livingston), David Marshall (Hull City), Jon McLaughlin (Sunderland)
Defenders: Michael Devlin (Aberdeen), Stuart Findlay (Kilmarnock), Scott McKenna (Aberdeen), Charlie Mulgrew (Blackburn Rovers), Stephen O’Donnell (Kilmarnock), Liam Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday), Andrew Robertson (Liverpool), John Souttar (Heart of Midlothian), Greg Taylor (Kilmarnock)
Midfielders: Stuart Armstrong (Southampton), Tom Cairney (Fulham), John McGinn (Aston Villa), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Kenny McLean (Norwich City), Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Graeme Shinnie (Aberdeen)
Forwards: Eamonn Brophy (Kilmarnock), Oliver Burke (Celtic, on loan from West Brom), James Forrest (Celtic), Ryan Fraser (Bournemouth), Marc McNulty (Hibernian, on loan from Reading), Lewis Morgan (Sunderland, on loan from Celtic), Johnny Russell (Sporting Kansas City)