John McGinn looks certain to miss Aston Villa’s Wembley date in the Carabao Cup next month but Scotland manager Steve Clarke has not given up on getting the influential midfielder to the English national stadium this summer for the European Championships.

McGinn fractured his ankle the weekend before Christmas but is believed to have pencilled in a return before Scotland’s Euro 2020 play-off at Hampden against Israel on March 26th. Regardless of whether or not McGinn makes that one – and the impression is that he’ll be given until the last minute to make it – the suggestion from Clarke is that his Scotland team will be built around the midfielder.

“I think I know how I want to play,” said Clarke. “The shape of the team since I took over has been quite consistent. We found a good way of playing with John the link between the midfield and forwards and it has worked well.

“Fingers crossed his improvement is quick and his recovery is good. At the moment you would have to say it is going to be very close. There are a number of players who can play there.

“That position you can either play a striker as a second striker or a midfielder as a third midfield player. We found a way of doing it with John. If John is not available I would need to look at other options in midfield. Whether they can do the role the same as John is open to debate.

“I have a long time to think about and things can change between now and the end of March. I have an idea in my head who I want to play in those positions. But I also need to have a safety net if someone gets injured or someone else hits a great run of form.”

In that respect Clarke has been further frustrated by the recent injury to Stuart Armstrong. Added to Scott McTominay’s absence it is another potential whammy for the Scotland manager to deal with. Having got himself back into the Southampton starting XI, Armstrong’s momentum has been interrupted with a hip injury sustained in an outing against Spurs that is expected to sideline him for the best part of a month.

More encouragingly for Clarke has been the recent form of Leigh Griffiths for Celtic. The most natural forward in the country, Griffiths’ form of late has hinted at possibility. The striker has netted three goals in his last four games but so much rests on his ability to sustain what he has shown since the return from the winter break. Griffiths estimates he is still playing at just “80%” and is last Scotland performance came against Albania in a Nations League tie in September 2018.

That he played just 20 minutes of that game after replacing Johnny Russell tells its own story. Griffiths revealed this week that he has yet to touch base with Clarke since his re-emergence from the shadows at Celtic but there would be a feeling that if an on-form – and that is a weighty ‘if’ – was available it would lend encouragement to Scotland’s task.

Griffiths’ two goals against England at Hampden remain the player’s finest moment. He gave life to Hampden and to Scotland that day and as Clarke appeals for the Scotland support to unite in an attempt to get Scotland to their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup, it is hard to overlook the maverick element that Griffiths can offer.

Getting past Israel would tee up a play-off final against either Norway or Serbia. Courtesy of winning their Nations League group, Scotland’s game against Israel is at Hampden with Clarke keen to emerge from the tunnel to a level of noise and energy that reflects the touching distance nature of the European Championships.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It is still a long way away and things can change. Everyone that's involved in it will be desperate to be there (Euro 2020). It's something to look forward to and relish. It’s going to be a big game here. It's on course to be a sell-out so who hopefully the tickets go and we get Hampden Park rocking and get through the first game.

“It should sell out. They will come optimistic and full of hope and the place will be rocking at the start and then it's up to the team with their performance to make sure that continues through the whole 90 minutes or 120 minutes, however long it takes us to get through to the next stage.”

Clarke was at Hampden in 1973 when Scotland beat Czechoslovakia to qualify for their first World Cup in 16 years. He wouldn’t mind a better vantage point this summer as he seeks to end Scotland’s 22-year absence from any major tournament.

“Aye, when Joe Jordan scored out there against Czechoslovakia with the header. I was in that stand out there, that size (small) and couldn't see the game. It was brilliant. I don't think we'll get 100,000 or whatever was there that night but you need that atmosphere.

“You need the crowd. I've said consistently, I'm sure they will be there and be behind the team because they want to be involved in Euro 2020 as much as everybody else.”