Steve Clarke has been provided with such an inviting open goal that you might imagine Ryan Gauld had crafted it himself with one of those trademark, incisive through-passes.
It was announced on Tuesday morning that Scotland will complete their preparations for the European Championships with a training camp in Portugal, facing the Netherlands on June 2 before the more modest challenge of Luxembourg four days later.
Two matches; two very differing levels of opposition; ample time to assess the merits of at least a couple of new faces.
Clarke is a coach fond of reliability, consistency and showing loyalty to the players he trusts. Admirable qualities which have helped the nation end an interminable 23-wait to reach a major international finals.
— VSPORTS (@vsports_pt) April 5, 2021
But that comes at a cost if you are on the outside looking in.
Perhaps the biggest victim has been ex-Dundee United and Sporting CP midfielder, Gauld, who continues to dazzle with Faro-based side Farense.
That surely must change when the Scotland squad rolls up in his adopted back yard in June.
Ryan Gauld doing Ryan Gauld things… 🧡🖤 https://t.co/wuB1t1bVYL
— The Dode Fox Podcast (@dodefoxpodcast) April 6, 2021
However, it is not a matter of geographical convenience. Gauld, by every tangible measure, fully deserves an opportunity to impress Clarke. As captain of newly-promoted, often-outgunned Farense, he has mustered seven goals and five assists in a league laden with lavish talent.
He has been named as man of the match in seven Primeira Liga fixtures in 2020/21, including against Benfica (Adel Taarabt, Jan Vertonghen and Haris Seferovic were among his opponents that evening) and Braga on Monday night.
Honestly, some ball. pic.twitter.com/OSBV0jDv6R
— Byron Hutchison (@ByronHutchison) April 5, 2021
Now 25 years of age, Gauld has matured into a leader, a creative force and a clinical finisher – and appears increasingly likely to join one of Portugal’s powers in the summer.
Braga were close to sealing a move for the player in January, while Sporting – having reportedly seen the error of their ways in casting him aside – have also been credited with an interest.
It has become an almost weekly tradition to see highlights of Gauld’s exploits go viral, as happened in the aftermath of Monday evening’s encounter with Braga in which, despite emerging on the losing side of a 2-1 scoreline, he was irrepresible.
Ryan Gauld tonight v SC Braga:
– 56 touches
– 4 key passes
– 2 big chances created
– 3 crosses
– 1 assist
– 3 successful dribbles
– 8 ground duels won
– 1 aerial duels won
– 4 interceptions
– 2 tackles
— Próxima Jornada (@ProximaJornada1) April 5, 2021
His first-half corner-kick was converted by Pedro Henrique (top video above) before an agonising late winner from Braga.
Asked about Gauld’s absence when the last Scotland squad was selected, Clarke quipped that he has heard plenty about his exploits due to having a friend who lives in Portugal and regularly reports back.
Surely it is time for the Scotland boss to see what he can do in the flesh.