The Scotland manager watched as the visitors made quick work of his team in the first half to puncture the optimism of the hosts on a night to mark 150 years since the first game between the countries.
The record now stands at 49 wins for England in 116 matches stretching back to 1872. Clarke preferred to put the accent on Scotland’s most recent competitive win – last week’s 3-0 victory in Cyprus, which maintained their position at the top of Group A in Euro 2024 qualifying. This remains the case despite the fact Norway beat Georgia 2-1 while Scotland were losing to England, which nixed hopes Clarke’s side might claim a spot in Germany with three games to spare. A draw in Oslo would have secured this scenario.
The manager said he always felt Norway would win and did not even know the score until shortly before he walked into the interview room to discuss the England defeat.
First half goals from Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham – after a horrible mistake from Scotland skipper Andy Robertson - put England in control before half-time. Scotland improved in the second half and found a way back into the game when substitute Harry Maguire put through his own goal after 67 minutes. But England skipper Harry Kane restored England’s two goal lead with nine minutes left. Scotland must now focus on securing a result against Spain in Seville next month.
“We didn’t play as well as we can play and England played very well, especially first half, and it’s difficult to come back from 2-0 down,” said Clarke. “We had a good 30 minutes where we were forcing the game, got back in the game, then switched off again. The game goes 3-1 and it’s over.
“I wasn’t getting carried away. I said the game would be something I could look at afterwards, with a view to Spain next month. I will go away and analyse the game and see what we can do better. We managed to play the ball around a little bit but the game was probably already gone at 2-0 down. There are some things we have to be better at. I’m going to have to come up with a strategy that gets a result in Spain. The most important thing in this camp was to get three points in Cyprus. We achieved that. We knew playing against England would be difficult.”
After Spain, Scotland head to Lille to play France in a friendly. “If you want to improve you have to play against these teams,” said Clarke.
The manager dismissed the notion that the feel-good factor had been shredded by the comprehensive defeat to England – Scotland’s first since losing a friendly against Turkey at the end of last year. “It hasn’t gone,” he said. “In the competitive group, we’ve got five wins and 15 points. That’s what we have. I told the lads the camp has been a success. It would have been nice to have a positive result against England to make it even better. We didn’t’ want to lose to the auld enemy but, on the night, England were better and sometimes you have to take your medicine.
“I’m always excited to come away with this squad. They’ve been fantastic for their country. In a bit of adversity, they’ve always bounced back. Hopefully next month they do that. You can always analyse a goal and find fault in it. I think we can defend better and we have defended better, by and large.
“The way we shaped the team, the personnel I started with, I had some ideas I wanted to see how it worked. We were better in the second half and the changes made a difference, gave us some impetus and energy.
“Just as it looked as if we might get something, England got the third and killed the game. The supporters should be disappointed that we didn’t get a positive result. But I’m sure they understand where we are. They’re still singing about going to Germany, so I’m sure they’re in a good place.”