Scotland boss Steve Clarke has called on Billy Gilmour’s replacement to make himself a “national hero” against Croatia.
Clarke’s plans for the must-win Group D Euro 2020 showdown were thrown into chaos when midfielder Gilmour was ruled out having returned a positive Covid-19 test.
Gilmour, 20, must self-isolate for 10 days, although there were no identified close contacts and Clarke has 25 players available to face Croatia.
Clarke is confident the loss of the man of the match in the 0-0 draw with England will not derail the bid to make history at Hampden.
Scotland must beat 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia to progress from the group stages of a major tournament for the first time.
Clarke has urged his squad to progress from the groups and move deep into the tournament so Gilmour can again play at Euro 2020 when his isolation is over.
Clarke said: “It is the chance for someone else to come into team and make themselves a national hero
“The only spanner it throws into the works is Billy would have started and now he won’t.
“What we have to do now is make sure that Billy’s good performance against England doesn’t go to waste.
“The players don’t need any added motivation, but this is a very tight-knit group.
“They know if we can progress far enough into the tournament then they can welcome Billy back into the squad.
“That would be fantastic.
“But the first step to doing that is to make sure we go out against Croatia and play as well as we can.
“We have to find our top performance level and hope it’s enough to get us the three points against a team that was in the last World Cup final.”
Clarke’s plans thrown into chaos
Clarke received the bombshell news Gilmour had tested positive at 7am on the eve of the Scots’ final Group D game.
Gilmour was set to start against Croatia, having been so influential at Wembley – his first senior international start.
Clarke said: “First and foremost I’m upset for Billy.
“The doc had to have a very difficult conversation with him when the test came back positive.
“It was obviously a shock to the lad.
“I spoke with him as well and, as you’d expect, he’s very upset.
“But it’s just the times we are in.
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 18, 2021
“You have to adapt and deal with it and that’s what we’ll do.
“It wasn’t something we expected, but it’s something that we have to deal with and get on with the game.
“This is a big game, so let’s not lose focus on where we are and what we’ve done to get here, including the point we got at Wembley the other night.”
All other Scotland players clear to play
The other 25 Scotland players had lateral flow tests on Monday and all tested negative.
England have chosen to omit Gilmour’s club-mates Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell from their game with the Czech Republic after the pair, who have had to self-isolate as a precaution, interacted with Gilmour at Wembley.
We can confirm that Billy Gilmour has tested positive for COVID-19.
Having liaised with Public Health England, Billy will now self-isolate for 10 days and therefore miss tomorrow’s UEFA EURO 2020 Group D match against Croatia at Hampden.https://t.co/lRNWvckqCK
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) June 21, 2021
Asked if his medical staff had any idea how Gilmour contracted Covid-19, Clarke said: “We have no idea and there’s no way in the world that I can get involved in any speculation about that.
“I’ve got quite a big game to think about and now, obviously, I’ve got to make a change to the team I had in my mind.
“Billy was going to start as you would imagine after the way he played against England.
“So I have a change I need to mull over and think about.
“I felt fantastic after I watched our training session.
“They were absolutely outstanding and that’s what gives me hope that, no matter who I pick, he’ll come into the team and do fine.
“That’s what we want.
“But the whys and wherefores regarding how he caught it?
“That’s not up to me.
“We follow all the protocols.
“We wear our masks at the right time, we wash our hands all the time and have bottles of sanitiser around the place.
“We do everything we can within the context of a global pandemic and a virus that you can’t see.
“People all over the world have caught this virus, so it’s not something you can legislate for.”
Scotland will not man mark Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric
Scotland will face a Croatian side orchestrated by 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric of Real Madrid.
Clarke insists there are no plans to man mark the 35-year-old midfield playmaker, capped 140 times, at Hampden.
He said: “You have to try to deal with the opposition as and when the situations arise.
“Modric is such a clever player that, if you tried to man mark him, I’m sure he’d find a way round it.
“So we’ve got to look for the nearest person to him to be the first man to make the press on him.
“Hopefully that can keep him under control.
“I’m sure, with a player of that quality, it’s going to be difficult to keep him under control for the full 95 minutes or whatever it is. But we’ll do our best.”
A ‘must-win’ for Scotland and Croatia
The game is a must-win for both sides as Croatia face the ignominy of exiting a tournament at the group stages just three years after starring in the World Cup final.
Croatia, like Scotland, have one point from their opening two Group D fixtures.
Clarke said: “It’s a big game, Croatia are professionals and they know better than us what it takes to get into the knock-out stages of a major tournament because they’ve been there before and we haven’t.
“They are wily old foxes, but we’re ready for them.”