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Steve Clarke explained there were private reasons behind Greg Taylor’s Scotland omission as he admitted he had been loyal to several players who have not featured much recently.

Clarke has named a 23-man squad for the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Cyprus and Spain but there is no place for Taylor, who is arguably having his best season for Celtic.

Kieran Tierney, Andy Robertson, Aaron Hickey and Nathan Patterson are Clarke’s full-back options for the Hampden double header later this month.

When asked about his former Kilmarnock player, Clarke said: “Obviously I know Greg very, very well. We have a good relationship. I have had a chat with him and he’s fine. Having spoken to Greg… there are one or two little issues around that one that’s not for me to say. It’s a Celtic matter.”

The likes of Anthony Ralston, David Turnbull and Ryan Fraser have been left out after not featuring greatly in recent weeks while Nottingham Forest defender Scott McKenna is injured.

Patterson is selected despite not playing since suffering a knee injury on January 3 while Billy Gilmour has played less than 90 minutes of football in 2023. The likes of Ryan Christie and Tierney have also struggled for game time.

Clarke said: “Because it’s been six months since we played competitive football, I know we had a very short camp in Turkey for a friendly match, but everyone tends to look at a bit too deeply into who is playing and not playing.

“If you look over the course of the season, most of the boys have had a lot minutes.

Billy Gilmour
Billy Gilmour has struggled for game time for Brighton (Adam Davy/PA)

“There’s one or two in the squad who I have maybe been a little bit loyal to to bring them in and keep them involved. I think that’s important because the ones I am speaking about will be a big part of the Scotland squad moving forward, I hope.

“It’s just about getting the balance right and making sure that the boys that are here are fit and ready to go.”

Lyndon Dykes made the squad three days after his comeback from an illness that saw him spend time in hospital, a return that did not help Hearts striker Lawrence Shankland’s case.

“Lawrence has been really good this season,” Clarke said. “I look at the forward department and Lawrence was right at the front of my mind. Probably the fact he has picked up a little injury might just have swayed me to go the other way.

Lyndon Dykes
QPR forward Lyndon Dykes is fit again (Richard Sellers/PA)

“And obviously I got Lyndon back. I wasn’t really expecting Lyndon to be fit. I watched him play for QPR at the weekend. He was on the pitch for 56 minutes and he looked OK to me. Hopefully Lyndon will get some more minutes.”

Dykes was up against Watford centre-back Ryan Porteous, who is in the squad following an impressive start in English football after moving from Hibernian in January.

“I watched him at Reading and he was outstanding, scored a goal,” Clarke said. “He has settled into the English Championship well, which is not an easy division to settle into.

“Him against Dyksey at the weekend was interesting, it was good to see. I am glad they didn’t kick each other too hard. The last time I watched Dyksey against a Scottish centre-half was Dyksey against Scott McKenna and Scott absolutely flattened him. Thankfully Ryan didn’t do that.”

Scotland Training Session
Steve Clarke has ended Scotland’s time at Oriam (Jane Barlow/PA)

Meanwhile, Clarke confirmed Scotland would return to a Glasgow base this month following several years training at Oriam, Scotland’s national performance centre.

“We have had a little issue, mainly with the accommodation through in Edinburgh, so we have decided to come through here,” Clarke said while announcing his squad at Hampden.

“Obviously Queen’s Park have put in a fantastic pitch at Lesser Hampden. They have offered us the use of that facility so we are going to stay in a city-centre hotel.”