STEVE Clarke set his sights last night on the four points from a possible nine against Group I big guns Belgium and Russia which he feels would transform our hopes of automatic qualification for Euro 2020 – then said he hoped the manner of his team’s performance in Brussels on Tuesday might just convince any refuseniks out there to sign up to the cause.

Thanks to previous manager Alex McLeish, the national team already have a home play-off semi-final spot – most likely against Finland - to look forward to in March 2020. That still seems our likeliest route of reaching our first major finals since France 1998, but Clarke feels it is all still to play for in what is sure to be a pivotal period in the battle for an automatic spot.

Both Russia and Belgium, who Scotland trail by three and six points respectively, are due in Glasgow in the space of three days in September, before the Scots head East to visit the Russians in mid-October. The 55-year-old from Saltcoats reckons his group of players have shown enough in the two weeks he has been working with them to go into those matches confident of keeping their qualification hopes alive - but wants to have as many players to choose from as possible.

“Listen, we’re still in it,” said Clarke. “We have Russia at home, Belgium at home then Russia away. We probably need four points minimum to get something from the group. So why not?

“Let’s go there with a little bit of positivity, hope everyone’s fit and well, hope that I pick the right squads and right teams!” he added. “I think you saw in Belgium that this group of players are definitely going to give it a go.”

While Clarke named a bigger than usual squad for the June double header, there were still some notable absentees. The likes of West Ham’s Robert Snodgrass and Sheffield United’s John Fleck had weddings arranged, and there was no sign of Steven Fletcher and Matt Ritchie either. While none of the above would walk back into the team, the Scotland manager hopes that the positivity around the camp feeds back to them and encourages them to make themselves available.

“If the feeling the players have got for myself and my staff that I brought in for the work that we did, if they’ve got the same feeling I’ve got for them, then hopefully they’ll be phoning round their friends and their colleagues and saying ‘Listen, it’s not too bad in camp now, the camp was good, the sessions were organised, the messages given were clear.’ If they’ve taken all that on board then hopefully we can improve the squad moving forward.

“I think you want as many good players as possible available to make my job for selection as hard as it can possibly be," he added. "That’s the nature of the job. I want every good player who wants to play for Scotland. I want them fit and available in August for when I pick my squad for the next two games.”