Scotland: What happens when a player is called up to Steve Clarke's squad?

By Richard WintonBBC Sport Scotland
Scotland players
Scotland players have an app to tell them when training is - among other things

Have you ever wondered what happens when a player is called up by their country?

How do they know where to go? What to do? And what they need to bring? And when are they added to the squad WhatsApp group?

BBC Scotland has found out some of the answers to those obvious questions that are rarely asked...

How do players find out about call-ups?

Around two weeks before each squad is announced, the Scottish Football Association writes to the club of every player under consideration - usually around 40 of them - to establish if they are fit and available for selection.

Effectively, that list comprises a provisional squad - with the final selection having to be made within 15 days of the match - but clubs don't always tell their players that they're in contention.

Sometimes, it's the morning of the announcement before players get a call to tell them. Other times, the first time they know for sure is when the SFA tweets who has made the cut. And it's up to the player when they tell people about their call-up.

Do they get a 'starter pack'?

Everyone gets the standard document that outlines key contacts and requirements of international players, along with the national team code of conduct. But new call-ups are also given a full run through by Ashley Phillips, who has succeeded the retired Frank Reilly as team manager.

Phillips will liaise with the player, his club and even his family to put them all at ease and sorts all the logistics about where they need to be and when.

How do you get to the team hotel?

Players could be coming from all over the place. Some would fly in from continental Europe. Others might be closer to home but unable to drive, or bemused by the notion of finding their way to the squad base at Oriam - just outside Edinburgh - by public transport.

They are reimbursed for expenses - conjuring images of them carrying around fistfuls of receipts and filling in claim sheets - but more often than not, arrangements are made by the Scottish FA travel department, with players collected from airports or stations if needs be.

What do you need to bring?

Nothing is more important than their passport. Not only is it needed to get on a plane for an away game but it's required for Fifa's online registration too.

There have been some memorable hunts for missing ones over the years, too. One player arrived at the airport on the occasion of his first call-up only to discover he had brought his baby daughter's passport instead of his own. Another time, a seaplane had to be chartered to retrieve one.

This is where Phillips has particularly big shoes to fill. Be it a quick phone call to an old contact at the passport office or getting in touch with the British consulate in whatever country the squad are travelling to, 'Uncle Frank' almost always had a solution.

Aside from that, players will travel light. Given they wear either training kit or suits most of the time, all they really need are boots, shinguards and their aftershave of choice.

So, is there an itinerary?

Yes. And we're not just talking about an A4 sheet of paper slipped under the hotel room door.

The squad are all given access to an app called Kairos, which sends specific individual training plans, meeting times, meal information, analysis and media requirements direct to their phones or tablets.

What about late replacements? Is it drop everything and run?

Usually they will have been in the provisional squad so have an inkling that they are on the fringes of it. There are times, though, when players have cut short honeymoons, stag weekends and family holidays to answer the call.

Who deals with things such as passports & boarding passes?

Phillips will become the most important person in Scotland when it comes to international trips. She will look after all the documentation and ensure nothing is left out of her sight.

Is there a WhatsApp group for each camp? And who is the admin?

It's certainly evolved from the Scott Brown era, when the very first group set up by the association and containing players, coaching staff and administrators descended into chaos within 20 minutes with all manner of eye-watering material.

Now, all the important information is disseminated by the app mentioned previously, but there is a player-specific group looked after by the captain and senior squad members.

Do the players get down time during camps?

Things will be different this time because of Covid restrictions, but the players are occasionally given an afternoon off between double-headers. If nothing else, it gives them a chance to meet up with family and have a change of scenery from their hotel room, dining room or meeting room.

How do they sort out tickets for people?

They need to speak to Phillips again, but every player is entitled to two complimentary tickets with the option to buy more.

What happens when the game finishes?

Media duties take up the hour immediately after the game then, if the match is in Scotland, they would ordinarily meet their families in the players' lounge. After that, they head straight home, back to the hotel or straight to the airport depending on their travel plans.

Does the WhatsApp group continue after the squad disperses?

What happens on WhatsApp…

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