Steve Clarke revealed his early struggles as Scotland boss after agreeing a deal to extend his time in the Hampden Park hot seat until 2026.
Ahead of the opening UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying double-header against Cyprus and Spain, the 59-year-old signed a new contract to remain in charge until after the next FIFA World Cup campaign, which will be held in Canada, Mexico and the United States.
The former West Brom, Reading and Kilmarnock boss was appointed national team boss in May 2019 and speaking at Hampden Park, before the visit of the Cypriots on Saturday, he said: “Credit to the players and staff – it’s always nice when your work is recognised.”
He then spoke about his initial problems with the job when he would “over-think” and confuse himself.
The former Scotland defender said: “If you had asked me nine month, 12 months into the job whether I would sign a second extension as an international manager, I would have laughed at you because I couldn’t quite get my head round the nuances of the job.
“It is a different job. I had always worked in a club environment. I didn’t even have that much international experience as a player.
“I had enjoyed being a club coach and I hadn’t quite got my head around the difference there was as an international manager where you have a lot of down time, where you have a lot of time to think.
“In a club environment you are just working, working, working and sometimes you don’t take time to think.
“I had a lot of time to think about different things and sometimes I was confusing myself, I was thinking too much, over-thinking and ended up giving myself issues.
“It was just a matter of getting used to the job. I have settled better into the role and again that is probably credit to the players, they allow you to feel comfortable in the role and managed to get the results which has kept us moving in a forward direction.
“We want to go into every qualifying campaign thinking we have a chance of qualifying. That’s what we want.
“I want to get to Germany 2024 and so do the players and we are determined to go there.”
Scotland’s group also includes Norway and Georgia and Clarke knows the importance of getting off to a good start against bottom seeds Cyprus, who were his first opponents in 2019, when a last-minute winner from Oliver Burke gave the home side a 2-1 win in their European Championship qualifier.
He said: ” It has been a while since we had a good start in a European qualifying campaign.
“I think somebody said it was 2006 since the last time we won an opening qualifier so I have mentioned that.
“I think it is always good to get off to a fast start. Cyprus are a good team.
“The last time we played in the last campaign we got a last-minute goal to win here 2-1 and in Cyprus we were hanging on the last 10 minutes.
“They will be tough opponents but it is a game we have to win.
“When you are playing against lesser seeded teams you want to win the games and that’s what we have to do.”
With number one goalkeeper Craig Gordon recovering from a double leg break, Clarke has to choose between three uncapped keepers – Zander Clark, Gordon’s replacement at Tynecastle, Motherwell number one Liam Kelly and Angus Gunn, son of former Scotland keeper Bryan Gunn, who was given a first call-up for Scotland after coming through the under-age groups with England.
Clarke said: “On the goalkeeping situation, the three boys have worked unbelievable this week.
“If you actually watched them, they have looked at the situation and are pushing themselves non-stop and they are all trying their best to impress myself and Chris Woods (goalkeeping coach).
“It has been great to watch and it a decision that I am close to making but I haven’t made it and I have another couple of decisions in the outfield as well.”