STEVE Clarke last night described Scotland’s dramatic Euro 2020 play-off final penalty shoot-out triumph over Serbia as the proudest moment of his career.

Clarke’s men looked to have snatched defeat from the jaws of a glorious victory when they conceded a last-minute equaliser in a game in the Rajko Mitic Stadium they had dominated.

But they took the game to spot kicks and Leigh Grffiths, Callum McGregor, Scott McTominay, Oliver McBurnie and Kenny McLean all converted from 12 yards.

When David Marshall brilliantly denied Aleksandar Mitrovic, whose team mates had buried all of their penalties, the national team qualified for their first finals since France ’98.

Clarke, the former Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle United assistant, admitted the achievement was his greatest as a coach and confessed he had to fight back tears.

“Like I said before I don’t like to categorise these things but, yes, this is the proudest moment of my career,” he said. “It’s absolutely fantastic, a great feeling. It’s great to be the head coach of such a good group of players.

“The commitment and the character they show, the quality they show. I’m just proud to be in charge of them.”

“There was a little glint appeared at one stage after the penalties, but I managed to control myself. I think when you see the reaction of the players and the emotion of the players it tells you how much it means.

“Sometimes the players get knocked down a bit or their commitment for playing for their country is questioned.

“But you saw that tonight. You watched that game tonight. Their commitment is beyond question and if they did want to shed a tear then they were more than entitled to do that after such a long wait to take the country to a major finals.”

Clarke added: “I was a little bit tense, but really only during the penalty shoot-out. I thought during the game itself we were very comfortable.

“We realised they had an aerial threat that could give us a problem at set-plays, but we defended them all so well that I couldn’t even see them scoring from one of them.

“So It was a big blow to the lads when they scored in the final seconds, but I think it shows you the character of this group of players that can dig in in extra time, take the game to penalties and actually win it.

“To come from such a disappointment of conceding in 90 minutes just makes it even more of a magnificent achievement.

“At that point it looked as though we were heading for the normal Scotland glorious failure. But the character of this group of players and the positivity about them shone through tonight.

“You could see the desperation to do well and the absolute determination to make sure we didn’t let anyone down this time. And they certainly didn’t.”

Asked how he thought his heroes would fare at the Euro 2020 finals, he said: “Obviously emotions are still very, very raw and emotions are on a high. Let’s just say the future will take care of itself.

“Tonight you’ve got to give us a little bit of grace and let us enjoy the moment. It’s been a long, long time since a Scottish team managed to qualify.

“We said we were determined to put a smile on the face of a nation and we’ve managed to do that. This group of players deserve all the plaudits they can get and hopefully the nation of Scotland is smiling tonight because they should be.”