Lukaku: Clarke will turn Scotland around in time
ROMELU Lukaku last night reassured the Tartan Army that Steve Clarke will lead Scotland back to relevance at international level if they give him the time he needs to turn the national team’s fortunes around.
The 56-year-old played a key role in the Inter Milan striker’s early career, giving him his first full season as a first-team player on loan at West Brom from Chelsea and being rewarded with 17 Premier League goals as the Baggies finished a remarkable eighth in the table.
With three goals in two games, their shared history hasn’t prevented Lukaku from being tormentor-inchief to Clarke’s Scotland but the 26-year-old is convinced that his former manager can lead Scotland to a first major finals since the 1998 World Cup.
“I worked with Steve at West Brom and he will get it right for Scotland,” said Lukaku. “When we were there together a lot of people didn’t think we would get to the position we did – but we did it. If you give Steve time he will get it right. He is the right man to give young players a chance.”
The story of how Belgium’s golden generation rose to the No.1 international team in the world is one of direct intervention from their governing body and the league to make sure the clubs got more of the best young players playing more often.
Lukaku believes that is the same remedy for Scotland and sees green shoots of recovery in the development of players like his former Manchester United team-mate Scott McTominay (inset).
“Scott can be very important for Scotland but he is not the only one, I think you have a lot of good talents coming through,” said Lukaku. “You have Ryan Fraser, who I like a lot, and also Oliver Burke – he was at West Brom and is a good player. He has a lot of pace. You just have to develop them and work hard, if you do that then things will improve.
“Belgium is a small nation but it all starts in the academy, you have to give players a chance and also give them time to develop. Then, when the players are ready to make the step to the big teams in Europe they have to make the right choices. The clubs are helping them make those decisions, they are sending players to teams where they can play a lot. You see the benefit of that.
“It wasn’t always like this, when I started playing with the national team only half of the players were in their starting line-ups. “It takes time, you have to be patient if you want to improve. We went through ups and downs before we changed everything – the staff changed, we became more professional and we have had the benefits of that. We have confidence, because we have had to work hard to get to where we want to be.”
Romelu Lukaku embraces Scotland captain Andy Robertson at full-time after the Belgium striker scored in a 4-0 win at Hampden on Monday