Steve Clarke has vowed to emulate Scotland’s women and lead the national team back to the major international stage.
Clarke has been appointed Scotland head coach on a three-year contract, 24 hours after taking Kilmarnock into European football for the first time in 18 years.
His task with Scotland is similar – end an even longer wait for qualification for a major tournament which stretches back to 1998.
The former Scotland international has little time to waste – his first game comes against Cyprus on June 8, with Scotland playing catch-up in the European Championship qualifiers following a 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan in their opener. But he has the fallback option of the play-offs following Nations League success under Alex McLeish.
✅ PFA Manager of the Year 2018-19✅ SFWA Manager of the Year 2018-19✅ SFWA Manager of the Year 2017-18
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) May 20, 2019
Clarke, who won six caps as a player, said in a statement: “It is an honour to be appointed Scotland national head coach and I will undertake those responsibilities with pride and commitment.
“I firmly believe we have a talented group of players who can achieve success on the international stage. I look forward to working with them and helping them to fulfil those ambitions.
“I appreciate the Scotland supporters have waited a long time for the national team to qualify for a major tournament. Now we have a Women’s World Cup to look forward to in France this summer and it’s my motivation to emulate the success of Shelley Kerr and her squad by leading us to Euro 2020.
“I believe we can qualify and look forward to that journey with the players and the fans, starting against Cyprus and Belgium next month.”
The 55-year-old was the natural choice to succeed the sacked McLeish after his incredible work at Rugby Park.
The former St Mirren and Chelsea defender took over in mid-October 2017 with the Ayrshire club bottom of the Ladbrokes Premiership. They finished the campaign in fifth place with a club record top-flight points tally and were statistically the best team in the league in 2018.
Killie again broke their points record this season and secured their highest finish since 1966 by sealing third place with a 2-1 win over Rangers on Sunday.
Clarke’s record against Glasgow’s big two showcased his ability to produce results against more fancied opposition, a prerequisite for the Scotland job. He led his team to four victories and four draws against Rangers and two wins and two draws against Celtic.
Having won two Scottish Football Writers’ and one PFA Scotland manager of the year awards, he emerged from a shortlist that was understood to include Scotland Under-21 coach Scot Gemmill and Derek McInnes, who reaffirmed his commitment to Aberdeen on Friday.
Scottish Football Association chief executive Ian Maxwell said: “Steve’s pedigree as a coach and manager of the highest regard set him apart in a high-calibre group of candidates. This season’s achievements simply reaffirm the credentials we believe will be of huge benefit to the Scotland national team.
“I am delighted that we now have the country’s deserved manager of the year to lead the Scotland national team and his experience over the past two decades will be integral to rejuvenating our UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, which resumes next month.
“It was important that we undertook the recruitment process diligently and respectfully, especially given the importance of the final games of the domestic season for Kilmarnock, Steve and his players.
“I would like to thank the Kilmarnock owner, Billy Bowie, and the club in general for their professionalism throughout the recruitment process.”
Clarke previously led West Brom to their best Premier League finish – eighth in 2013 – during an 18-month spell at The Hawthorns and took Reading to the FA Cup semi-finals during a 12-month managerial stint.
He has also coached at Chelsea, Newcastle, West Ham Liverpool and Aston Villa, working under managers such as Jose Mourinho, Ruud Gullit and Sir Kenny Dalglish.