Scotland boss Steve Clarke reveals why he interrupted Euro 2020 celebrations to have a serious chat with his players
Steve Clarke is not one to bask in the glory of Thursday's historic achievement.
After beating the odds to qualify for Euro 2020, in doing so guiding Scotland to a first major finals in 23 years, the nation would forgive Clarke some time to reflect on the magnitude of the accomplishment.
However, the former Kilmarnock boss is already focused on the next mission - qualification for the World Cup in Qatar in 2022 - and the quest to win Nations League B Group 2, which resumes in Slovakia on Sunday, less than 72 hours after the momentous penalty shoot-out win over Serbia.
For Clarke though, preparations for the next match started shortly after full-time in Belgrade.
"I interrupted the players’ celebrations the other night just to have five minutes of serious chat," he revealed. "I thanked them for their efforts, players and staff, and also reminded them that we have qualified for Euro 2020 and we can now park that one in the cupboard.
"It gives us something to look forward to next summer. But now it’s about the next tournament. The next tournament is Qatar 2022 and we want to be involved in that too.
"We know better than anybody now surely how important these Nations League games are. It did give us the route. It started in 2018 with Alex McLeish and his staff and a lot of the players who were involved in those games are no longer with us. But that’s where the journey started, in the Nations League C Section."
Scotland are now unbeaten in nine matches - the longest sequence since 1976 - and Clarke wants to harness the momentum for the remaining Nations League fixtures ahead of next year's World Cup qualifiers, the draw for which takes place on December 7.
"Most of the squad are at a really good age and coming to a time in their lives where they have good international experience and are picking up more," he said.
"There is a nucleus there, the core of the squad can hopefully carry on for a few more years and hopefully take in another qualification. That has to be the aim."
Clarke is hopeful that the Tartan Army will be able to follow Scotland to next summer’s Euros but admits he is not worried about where the matches will take place after reports the tournament, which is due to be staged at various venues across Europe including Hampden and Wembley, could be moved to a single host country due to the pandemic.
"It would be great if we could do it in the original format, but the most important part for me is that the supporters can be in the stadium no matter where it is,” he said.
"Whether it's spread across Europe or in one country, if we can get supporters into the stadiums to make sure it's the occasion it should be for a major finals. It's been a long wait for us. I want the Tartan Army to be there.
"If the games are at Hampden, brilliant, but if they are at Hampden and there's no crowd there, it's not going to be the same, so maybe if we had to move to another country and there was crowds there that might also be helpful for us.”