NOT even having to field those inevitable questions about where he is going to play Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney in his Scotland side could wipe the broad grin off of Steve Clarke’s face yesterday.

The return of Arsenal left back Tierney to the national squad after an extended absence has created a selection problem for Clarke ahead of the Nations League opener against Israel at Hampden this evening.

Yet, the availability of the man who has lifted both the FA Cup and Charity Shield at Wembley in recent weeks once again, coupled with being back on the training field for the first time in over nine months, has put the manager in fine spirits.

“It is a great feeling,” he said. “You get your boots out, they are covered in dust, you knock the dust off them and get them back on your feet. Just to be back on the grass working with a squad of players is good.

“It is really nice to be in camp with a group of players. I felt the players were the same when they got together. It is almost like old friends meeting up. It was a good start to the week and that has continued right through.”

Clarke is delighted Tierney, who he has been unable to select since he was appointed last May due to the injury problems the defender was struggling with, is available even though he has to figure out a way to accommodate both him and his Liverpool counterpart Robertson in the starting line-up.

“It’s a good thing that they are both playing at such a high level and being successful,” he said. “Both of them were trophy winners last season (Robertson lifted the Premier League with the Anfield club).

“Kieran has been good, very competitive in training, set a good standard, demanded a lot of the people around about him. Not so much in his vocals, just the way he trains. When somebody trains at 100 per cent it tends to have a good effect on the group.”

So will Clarke play a back three? Will he move Tierney to right back? Will he play him at centre half with Robertson outside him? Or will he do something else altogether? There are a lot of options. But he was giving nothing away.

“I think I will just let you speculate for another 24 hours,” he said. “We have looked at different combinations for the team and the way we are going to play. It has been a good week’s training.”

Scotland finished an unsuccessful Euro 2020 qualifying campaign on a high of sorts last year by beating San Marino, Cyprus and Kazakhstan. Will Clarke be prepared to tinker with successful formation and tactics because of the return of one player?

“It will depend how receptive the players are,” he said. “Obviously they have to have a positive mentality, they have to be prepared to be really receptive. It also helps if they have had some recent experience of playing different formations, different systems.

“Most of them over the course of their career will have come across that. Maybe not at the particular club they are at just now. They might play a different way. But when you come away on international week you have to be very receptive and you have to be quick learners.”

Determining where Tierney and Robertson both kick-off the game aren’t the only decisions that Clarke has to make. Could QPR striker Lyndon Dykes start in attack? Could Jon McLaughlin of Rangers be preferred to David Marhsall of Derby County due to his fine form in recent weeks.

“Lyndon has come into the camp and has settled in well,” he said. “He’s been a little bit quiet around the place, obviously it is strange surroundings for him.

“It’s been a hectic two weeks for the lad with his move to London. He’s been down there looking at places and I’ve just tried to make it a nice, quiet easy week for him, just let him settle into the squad and not put too much pressure on him or ask too many questions. He’s done well and he’s shown up well in training, which is good.

“It is always a decision to made on the goalkeepers. It is obviously a specialist position so myself and Stevie Woods will have a good chat about it and see which way we go.

“They’ve all shown me they are very good players and the training has been of a very high level. As I sit here now, I am pretty much certain of 10 out of 11 positions. I will have a little sleep on one.”

Meanwhile, Clarke outlined why Oliver McBurnie, who withdrew from the Nations League double header on Sunday injured, had played in a pre-season friendly for Sheffield United on Tuesday evening.

“I thought the outcry over it was over the top,” he said. “It was a very simple situation. We met up here on Sunday and Oli hadn’t been on the grass training for one minute. He trained on Monday, Chris (Sheffield boss Wilder) decided the best way to get some fitness into him was to give him 45 minutes in a pre-season friendly.

“To try and relate that to two massive international matches coming up for us is completely wrong. I’m sure Sheffield United have another friendly this weekend and I’m sure Oli will play some minutes.

“So he’s fit to play in a pre-season friendly for Sheffield United, that’s completely different from being match fit and ready to go for your country.”