Steven Pressley gives the inside track on Cyprus as he tips Scotland for fast start under Steve Clarke 1

Steven Pressley expects Steve Clarke’s Scotland reign to get off to a flying start with lift-off against Cyprus.

The new manager’s first game will be a Euro 2020 qualifier against the Cypriots at Hampden on June 8.

And having spent a year in charge of First Division club Pafos in 2018, former Scotland defender Elvis revealed that at club level the Cypriot League is thriving but barely surviving at international level.

Cyprus has a higher UEFA co-efficient than Scotland due to the exploits of APOEL, AEL Limassol, AEK Larnaca and Apollon Limassol in European competition in recent years.

Steven Pressley gives the inside track on Cyprus as he tips Scotland for fast start under Steve Clarke 2

But Pressley said: “I enjoyed my year managing in Cyprus immensely. The one thing that struck me though was that the quality of football in the Cypriot league was of a good and very high standard.

“I never took an analyst or a researcher with me to Cyprus. I did it all by myself because I’m really interested in that side of the football.

“Their biggest problem is the vast majority of top teams have virtually no Cypriot players playing in them. There is a ruling that if you don’t field two homegrown players within your starting line-up you get fined.

“The reality is most or all of the top teams accept the fines! Many of those clubs don’t play with any Cypriots at all.

“There is a huge amount of foreign players, particularly South Americans. That creates a big problem for their national team which explains why Cyprus as a nation are not doing so well. I watched them a couple of times and they’re not great. Their youth development also leaves a lot to be desired.

Dimitris Froxylias is one of Cyprus' key players
Dimitris Froxylias is fit for his side’s run of three home games in the next eight days

“The league itself does not really reflect the national team.

“To give you an example, in my last game at Pafos we fielded a team with 11 different nationalities. Only one was a Cypriot player.

“That tells its own story. The Cypriot league is starved of homegrown talent which in turn is reflected in the poor performances of the national team.”

Which is why Pressley does not see Cyprus posing much of a threat to Clarke. He added: “I fully expect Scotland to win at Hampden and to continue to ride the wave of optimism since the new manager arrived.

“I’ve been in the game long enough to know you can never take anything for granted with Scotland and that international football doesn’t follow normal club rules.

“But I would feel confident that Scotland could see off Cyprus in front of a big crowd at Hampden.

Steven Pressley gives the inside track on Cyprus as he tips Scotland for fast start under Steve Clarke 3

“Steve’s appointment seems to have captured the imagination of the nation and he was the overwhelming and popular choice for the position. That can only be a good thing for Scotland national team moving forward.”

The ex-Falkirk, Coventry and Fleetwood boss reckons this could be a watershed moment in Scottish international football history.

He said: “Clarke was undoubtedly the right appointment. He is a manager who has been successful wherever he’s gone. He took West Brom to eighth in the Premier League which was the Baggies’ highest top-flight position since 1981.

“Yet the West Brom supporters were still not happy and sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. Sometimes a manager produces great things at a club and then there are unrealistic expectations placed upon you.

“Clarke’s teams have always performed to a very high level and he has always maximized the resources at his disposal.

Steven Pressley gives the inside track on Cyprus as he tips Scotland for fast start under Steve Clarke 4
Alex McLeish with Malky Mackay in the stands 

“The last appointment from the SFA as a whole looked as if there wasn’t much thought or strategy behind it. I felt for Alex McLeish.

“The SFA now have to ensure this was the correct decision and do what England have done and get right behind their man in Gareth Southgate. Clarke needs to be fully supported by everybody within the association and together through time we have an opportunity to turn the national team around.
“Even in the opening 18 months if it doesn’t go to plan we must remain behind the manager. He
will receive criticism but the association has to stand strong alongside him and let him implement change.”