I WAS on a League Managers Association podcast in aid of Prostate Cancer UK earlier this week with Chris Coleman and Stevie Coppell and we were discussing what managers will do if there are any Covid-19 outbreaks during Euro 2020.

The games will go ahead even if 13 out of the 26 players in a country’s squad have to enter quarantine as a consequence of a positive coronavirus test. A match can be played if there are just 12 fit outfield players and a goalkeeper.

If you wanted to put a positive spin on that, you could say that if Scotland keep all their best players fit and their opponents lose all their star men then Steve Clarke’s team could win the tournament. 

Seriously, though, it is a deeply concerning prospect for Stevie and his fellow managers. How on earth do they deal with it? It will be the first time in their careers they have had to grapple with anything like it no matter how experienced they are.

We saw what could happen yesterday when six Scotland players – Che Adams, Grant Hanley, David Marshall, John McGinn, Stephen O’Donnell and Nathan Patterson – were ruled out of the pre-tournament friendly against the Netherlands in Portugal last night because they had been in close proximity to John Fleck. 

I know to a degree what Stevie had to put up with yesterday. I remember we lost a lot of players for the vital Nations League game Albania game in Shkoder in 2018 and Callum Paterson had to come in and play at right back.

He had played as a No10 for a season and a half with Cardiff and had done well and scored goals. But he had previous experience playing there with Hearts. It could have been a shock to the system for him. But he coped well.

I had actually intended to play Kieran Tierney at right back in that game. He had excelled there under Gordon Strachan – including in a win over Lithuania away when the back four and the goalkeeper were all lefties – and I had spoken to him about it. He was up for it. But he wasn’t available for the game.  It worked out alright though. Callum rose to the occasion superbly.

But I know it can easily go either way when you lose key men. In our opening Euro 2020 qualifier against Kazakhstan away in 2019 I lost Andy Robertson and then Kieran Tierney so I had to draft Graeme Shinnie in at left back. He had previously played in that position for Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Aberdeen. We hoped to it would be a seamless transition. But it obviously  didn’t go to plan and we ended up losing 3-0.

There is going to be a lot of unprecedented decision making for managers at the Euro 2020 finals. Normally you have got the strongest squad available to you at a major tournament. But in the coming weeks I am sure the pandemic is going to strike on a regular basis and coaches will be left with five or six major decisions. It will be a real challenge. I feel for them.

It is obviously going to be a real privilege to be at a major tournament like this. But they will have to face tests they have never encountered previously in their careers. 

Having said that, the guys who got the nod to start against the Netherlands last night – Liam Cooper and Jack Hendry at centre half, James Forrest at wing back, David Turnbull at playmaker – had a chance to stake a claim for a place against the Czech Republic in the opening Group D match at Hampden on June 14. I know that is what Stevie will have been hoping for. Still, it wasn’t ideal.

During my second spell in charge of Scotland, I did a fair bit of experimenting. We didn’t have the Celtic players for the summer tour of Peru and Mexico because they had played a lot of games that season. That gave us a chance to look at a few guys in friendly games. I also gave a few youngsters a chance. 

But now that a wee bit of success has come to us – first by beating Albania and Israel to get the Euro 2020 play-off spot, then by winning the final – we have got a pretty settled squad. Steve has done well to keep the same group of guys together. There haven’t been many call-offs. You tend to find that when you are about to qualify for a major tournament.

Stevie has had a good nucleus of players who have been able to raise the bar to a new level. He was able to field a pretty strong starting line-up in the Estadio Algarve last night as well. He had a lot of experience in there as well as youth in David Turnbull.

But when you lose your best players it becomes more difficult, no doubt about it. When we topped our Nations League group and got the play-off place, Steven Fletcher came in and made all the difference. He didn’t feature subsequently, but he was instrumental in those back-to-back victories after players dropped out with injury and illness.

I don’t think we have got the strength in depth we need to cope with this number of call-offs in Euro 2020. What we do have, though, is a coach who can improvise well. Steve has proved that in the past, not least in his two seasons at Kilmarnock. That may well be invaluable at Euro 2020 if there are further complications with Covid-19.