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Steve Clarke pleads with UEFA and FIFA as Scotland boss ‘desperate’ to avoid SIX games in June


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Steve Clarke has pleaded with world football’s governing bodies not to punish Scotland’ s players for Russia’s atrocities by hitting them with a six game fixture pile-up in June.

Clarke named a squad on Tuesday for two friendly matches which had to be arranged at the 11th hour after Vladimir Putin plunged the world into crisis by ordering his war machine into action.

Scotland’s semi-final play-off with Ukraine has also been rescheduled for June – with the winners then facing either Wales or Austria for a place at Qatar 2022.

But, as it stands, Clarke’s men also have four Nations League matches to fit in at the end of the season.

And the manager suspects FIFA and UEFA are on the verge of making a typically botched decision rather than go to the bother of ripping up and redesigning their own fixture lists.

Clarke said: “‘We hope and pray that we are playing Ukraine in the semi-final play-off in June. But what happens with the rest of the month, I don’t know is the honest answer.

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“All the big wigs are still in discussions and trying to find a solution. There’s fixture congestion that will arise from this situation.

“At the moment I’m desperate not to be in a position where we might have to play six games in June because I think that would be too much for the players on the back of a long hard season.

“At the moment that seems to be the thinking – that we might need to squeeze six games into a June window which is not correct in terms of player welfare.

“Just the timing of it, on the back of a long hard season. Even a four game window was going to be a little bit unusual in the Nations League.

“But to try and squeeze in a play-off semi-final and hopefully a final? That would take it to six games which is too much. I think those are the discussions they are having at this moment in time.

“You’ve got to put it all into context in terms of what Ukraine is suffering at this moment.

“These are sporting matters but Ukraine could also be in a position where they might have to play six matches and unfortunately we’d be knocked out.

“The people who organise the fixtures and the international calendar have shown before that, in certain circumstances, they can move the fixtures around.

“Maybe this is a case where they are going to have to help us out and move some fixtures away from June.”

At this stage, with their country under savage attack, there is no way of knowing if Ukraine will be able or remotely willing to play a football match in June.

But Clarke went on: “The most important thing for me is that we do get a chance to play against Ukraine.

“I’d like to think that the situation resolves itself enough for Ukraine to get a team on the pitch in June. But you have to look at the situation and think that could be difficult.

“On a human level I hope the game goes ahead as that will mean the situation has improved dramatically and that’s what we’re all hoping for.”

Clarke’s team will face Poland at Hampden next Thursday in a friendly fundraiser for the humanitarian drive on the ground in Ukraine before facing the losers of the other play-off semi between Wales and Austria

And he knows the watching world will be willing his opponents on – in the increasingly unlikely event that the play-offs do go ahead at the end of the season.

He said; ‘Listen, I appreciate that they’ll have the emotional support of most people across the world. But we want to go to the World Cup as well.

“So from a sporting point of view, we’ll be ready for the challenge.

“It’s just what it is. I think it’s fantastic that the Scottish FA and the Polish FA could get together and organise next week’s game with the help of UNICEF.

“Hopefully the Scottish public and the Tartan Army will do everything they can to get there and support in whatever small way we can to try and help a little bit.

“When you see the images of kids getting chucked on a train and shipped out of their homeland, it’s heartbreaking.”

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