Steve Clarke admitted he will have to tighten Scotland’s COVID protocols after being left in “shock” by Billy Gilmour’s positive test.
The Chelsea star has been ruled out of the Tartan Army’s must-win game against Croatia on Tuesday night.
Clarke was woken at 6.50am yesterday to be given the bombshell news, with implications that have spread to the England camp because of the post match sweaty cuddles Gilmour shared with Mason Mount and Ban Chilwell.
Clarke and the rest of the Scotland squad will play on… despite sharing a dressing room, and travelling with the 20-year-old midfielder.
The head coach said: “I’m upset for Billy. We had to have a very difficult conversation with him when the test came back positive. As you’d expect, he’s very upset.
“But it’s just the times we are in. You have to adapt and deal with it and that’s what we’ll do.
“It was obviously a shock to the lad. It wasn’t something we expected.
“This is a big game so let’s not lose focus on where we are, including the point we got at Wembley the other night.
“What we have to do now is make sure that Billy’s good performance against England doesn’t go to waste. He would have started the game, but now it is a chance for someone else to be a national hero.”
Asked how Gilmour caught COVID, Clarke said: “We have no idea and there’s no way in the world that I can get involved in any speculation about that.”
And he said it wasn’t “his department”, when asked about other issues including other Scotland players being close contacts and at risk.
“The whys and wherefores regarding how he caught it? That’s not up to me,” Clarke said.
Will Scotland beat Croatia on Tuesday night? Have your say below.
“Hopefully we need to tighten them up for the next week because that means we’re still involved in the tournament.”
Leeds defender Liam Cooper said: “We’re all gutted for Billy. He’s just announced himself on the world stage and now this. All I can say is that we’re thinking of him. He’s feeling OK so we just send our love to him.
He added: “We took precautions throughout the training camp and around the hotel. I wasn’t aware of England but I’ll leave that to them.”
Clarke wants to concentrate on the game ahead, with Scotland needing their first goal of the tournament to progress. He added: “We’ve had 30 shots. We just need someone to step up and put the ball in the net. I’m sure we’ll do that. The strikers have confidence in themselves.
“You’d like to think lady luck will be on our side and at least one will hit the back of the net. Hopefully.”
Clarke isn’t fooled by Croatia’s stuttering start in Group D. “You’re talking about a team that played in the last World Cup Final,” he said.
“They have quality players but they are obviously looking for a little spark in the tournament.
“But they are good players, make no mistake about it and they are going to cause us a lot of problems tomorrow night. We’re going to have to play our best game. We’re going to have to play as well as we can to get the result we want.
“People may say they are past their peak but they are the No.1 seeds.”