Liam Palmer: Flip flops ban shows new standards in Scotland camp that can help us reach Euro 2020 finals
Oct. 08, 2019
Liam Palmer: Flip flops ban shows new standards in Scotland camp that can help us reach Euro 2020
HOW the Scotland players dress at meal times when they are away on international duty would seem to be, after yet another desperately disappointing and failed qualifying campaign, of little significance.
Shoring up a porous defence, creating more chances up front and scoring with far greater regularity are certainly the issues supporters would like to see addressed after the national team’s hopes of reaching Euro 2020 automatically ended with no fewer than four Group I games remaining.
Yet, for Liam Palmer, the Sheffield Wednesday defender who is back in the squad and hoping to feature against Russia in Moscow tomorrow evening, minor details can make a huge difference.
Palmer feels the rules that new manager Steve Clarke has introduced off the park – like banning flip flops at the dinner table, making everyone to sit together when they eat and ensuring his charges walk out to training sessions en masse – will bring the squad closer together and make a huge difference to the country’s fortunes on it going forward.
“Right across the board managers have different ideas and ways they want to do things,” he said. “Coming away now, everyone sits down to eat together and nobody leaves until you’re all finished. Everyone walks out to training together, nobody wears flip flops round the table.
“All these little things probably don’t sound like much, but they are the things that keep the standards up to a level. If people are coming in in dribs and drabs, it doesn’t look good. You have to have standards and have rules to adhere to. If you have that then it carries on into the training.
“Am I surprised it wasn’t happening before? It’s difficult because it was my first trip away with the team. Going back to club level, I’ve seen it done loads of different ways and especially when there’s a change in manager standards can get lost.
“So it’s up to the new manager to say ‘right, this is what we’re doing’ and for me it’s a lot better when it’s more structured and boys have things they have to adhere to.”
Palmer’s first and to date only appearance for his adopted homeland didn’t go as he would have wanted; he made his debut for Scotland in the disastrous 3-0 defeat to Kazakhstan in Nursultan back in March that did so such damage to their hopes of reaching their first finals since France ‘98.
However, the 28-year-old, who qualifies to play for the national team due to having a granny who hailed from Carluke, is genuinely optimistic that better times lie ahead under Clarke having been impressed by the new manager’s forensic attention to detail.
“Obviously, it can come down to tiny margins on the pitch, but the new gaffer has changed the whole structure of the training and everything else has been spot-on as well,” he said.
“I only came across Steve Clarke as an opposition manager, but I knew about him. He was a full-back so he knows my position and is able to hand out bits of advice on a few things.”
The right back is hoping to be involved in the four remaining group games against Russia, San Marino, Cyprus and Kazakhstan – starting in the Luzhniki Stadium tomorrow evening - and stake a claim for a start in the play-off games next year.
With Stephen O’Donnell having struggled against both Russia and Belgium last month many members of the Tartan Army would like to see a change in the specialist position and Palmer given a chance to show what he is capable of.
“With the play-offs around the corner there is no better time to come into the squad and get that chance to plant a seed in the manager’s mind,” he said.
“Even if that is just doing the right things in training and making him think about you. I see the games coming up as that chance and right across the squad all the boys will be of that mindset. Everyone wants to be part of it in March and help the team do the business to qualify.
“It’s really down to the manager and whether he wants to look at different players and formations. But I’m desperate to play. I’ve been concentrating on doing well for my club and getting that call-up. I won my first cap in Kazakhstan and it was a difficult start to the group and then the new manager came in.
“It would be great on Thursday to be able to repay the fans who have travelled everywhere with us in this campaign and a strong performance against Russia would be a good start.”
Palmer missed the last Euro 2020 double header against Russia and Belgium at Hampden last month because his wife went into labour as he was driving north from England to join up with his Scotland team mates. He is pleased to be part of things once again.
“The last trip was a bit hectic,” he said. “I was in the squad and I was on my way up when I took a call saying that my missus was about to drop so I couldn’t risk it. I called the gaffer and he insisted I had to go back - she’d have been cursing me otherwise.
“Even though it was only a five-hour drive away, I felt that, with it being our third child, it would be a case of her getting in the car, giving birth and then leaving the hospital on the same day!
“It turned out that Beth went into labour on the Friday while the boys were playing Russia. She was eight days early and a bit apprehensive. I was trying to watch the game on my i-Pad while she was sleeping, but I couldn’t see too much of it because nurses were always coming in and out.
“Fortunately, everything went smoothly. We now have a little girl, Honor, to join Aubrey and Arlo and we were in and straight back out again. I was joking to my wife that I was coming away to avoid sleepless nights for a week but she has plenty of help down there.”
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