STEVE Clarke has attributed Allan McGregor’s exceptional form for Rangers this season to his decision to retire from international football and revealed he didn’t consider asking the veteran keeper if he was open to a Scotland recall ahead of the Euro 2020 finals this summer.

Clarke’s first choice goalie David Marshall, whose penalty shoot-out heroics in the play-off final against Serbia in Belgrade in November ensured the country clinched a place in their first major tournament since France ’98, hasn’t played in the past three weeks.

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He injured his back in a Derby County game against Nottingham Forest in the English Championship last month and there were fears he would be unavailable for the national team’s opening 2022 World Cup qualifiers this month.

However, Marshall was yesterday named in the 26-man squad for the Group F triple header against Austria, Israel and the Faroe Islands along with Craig Gordon of Hearts and Jon McLaughlin of Rangers.

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McGregor - whose late save in the Nations League win over Israel at Hampden in 2018, his last international appearance, helped Scotland to secure the Euro 2020 play-off spot - is a strong contender for the Player of the Year awards which will soon be handed out.

Ibrox legend Ally McCoist compared him to England great Gordon Banks after he denied Lukas Masopust in spectacular fashion in the final minute of the Europa League last 16 game against Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic last Thursday night. 

But Clarke feels the 42-times capped 39-year-old, who has helped Steven Gerrard’s side lift the Premiership in the 2020/21 campaign, has benefitted from not being involved in the Scotland set-up in the past two-and-a-half seasons and is content to put his faith in Marshall, Gordon and McLaughlin.

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“Listen, Allan McGregor has been outstanding for Rangers this year,” he said. “But I trust my three goalkeepers implicitly. I like the dynamic in that group.

“Allan is probably bearing the fruit from his decision to retire a few years ago from international football because it has prolonged his club career. He has had a fantastic season and another Premier League title for Allan to put in his trophy cabinet.”

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Elsewhere, Clarke, the former St, Mirren, Chelsea and Scotland full-back, has predicted Nathan Patterson, the young Rangers right back who has impressed since James Tavernier picked up an injury last month, has a bright future ahead of him for both club and country.

There had been speculation that Patterson, who scored a stunning individual goal in the Europa League last 32 win over Royal Antwerp last month immediately after replacing Leon Balogun at half-time, would be named in the Scotland squad for their World Cup qualifiers.

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But the national manager has been pleased with how both Stephen O’Donnell of Motherwell and Liam Palmer of Sheffield Wednesday have performed for him in the specialist position since he succeeded Alex McLeish two years ago. 

“Stephen has done very, very well for Scotland,” he said. “I understand that there are always people who want to talk Stephen down. But his recent performances have been excellent. If you take away the name of the club he plays for, you’d all be saying that he’s a good player.

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“Liam Palmer? Any time I’ve had him in the squad, he’s done well. He’s served his country well. I think we need to show a little bit of respect for people who’ve served their country well.

“Nathan Patterson is a very good player and he’s got a very big future in front of him, but he’s only a young boy who’s just broken into the Rangers team. We must give him time to settle in and see how his career goes. But he’s a big player for the future, that’s for sure.”

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Clarke, who has named Ryan Jack in the squad even though the Rangers midfielder has been sidelined for nearly a month, refused to rule out the 19-year-old being drafted into the Scotland set-up in the near future.   

“You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “That’s one thing I’ve learned in this job, you can’t look too far ahead, especially with things like Covid and all the restrictions that might fall on us. 

“But what I would say is, people are quick to knock Stephen O’Donnell, but he’s been fantastic for the national team. He’s never let me down, he’s never let the team down or let the country down. And Liam Palmer is similar. He’s a back up to Stephen and any time I have asked him to play he has done well for us.

“But you always have to have an eye on the future and Nathan Patterson’s broken into the Rangers team because of an injury to the captain James Tavernier. He’s done well.

“But he’s played less than 10 first team games so let’s give the boy a little bit of time to find his feet and keep developing. I’m sure that he can be part of the future for Scottish football.”

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