FORMER St Mirren defender Steve Clarke is set to become the next manager of Scotland, barring any hitches in negotiations.

It is understood the Kilmarnock manager is the man the Scottish Football Association want to replace Alex McLeish, and they hope to appoint the 55-year-old by the end of the week.

Clarke, who made over 200 appearances for the Buddies, could follow in the footsteps of Ally MacLeod in leading his national team after a spell in Paisley. 

Aberdeen vice-chairman Dave Cormack yesterday ruled Pittodrie manager Derek McInnes out of the running, claiming his manager would reject any approach from the SFA. 

But our sister title Herald Sport understands that Clarke is the man at the top of SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell’s wishlist in any case.

Clarke yesterday revealed he has a difficult couple of weeks ahead as he decides the next step in his managerial career.

Clarke was named the Scottish Football Writers Association’s Manager of the Year for the second year running and has already spoken about the emotional reasons for 
leaving Rugby Park: his wife, children and grandchildren are living in England.

READ MORE: Former Buddie Steve Clarke joint-favourite to succeed Brendan Rodgers

Clarke is happy working with the Ayrshire club his older brother, Paul, played for in the 1970s and ’80s but he is the favourite to replace Alex McLeish as the next Scotland manager and has also been linked with the vacancy at Brighton following by the dismissal of Chris Hughton on Monday.

However, he admitted yesterday that he is not yet in a position to make a firm commitment one way or the other.

“At the moment the inside of my head is like a tumble dryer,” he said. “No, I’m not any clearer – the next couple of weeks are going to be very difficult for me.”

Clarke will make his latest appearance at Hampden today, charged by the compliance officer for critical comments he made concerning the performance of referee Steven McLean, who sent off three of his players in a 1-0 home defeat by Aberdeen last month.

However, he accepts that working in Scotland for the first time since he left St Mirren to sign for Chelsea in 1987 has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for him.

The Gazette: Clarke could be in line to replace Alex McLeish Clarke could be in line to replace Alex McLeish

“Has Kilmarnock been good for me? Absolutely,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of satisfaction from the job. I’ve had a lot of good press since I came back and it’s nice to return to your own country and do well.

“I think some people had maybe forgotten about me a little bit because I’d been down south for so long so it’s been nice to come back and have my name in the headlines, mostly for the right reasons.”

Kilmarnock will clinch third place and a Europa League slot by matching or bettering Aberdeen’s result away to Hibs when Rangers visit on Sunday.

“We’re still in there pitching and fighting for a European spot which, at this stage of the season, I think is fantastic,” he said. “We’re above Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibs.”

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Meanwhile, the bookies’ second favourite for the Scotland job, Derek McInnes, appeared to be out of the running last night after his club chairman Stewart Milne’s insisted that the 47-year-old sees his immediate future at Aberdeen.

Milne said his manager had made it clear that he wished to remain at the club he took over six years ago and that he had been a driving force in the club’s plans for a new £50m stadium and a £12m training complex, the latter opening early in the new season.

The millionaire housebuilder hailed the progress the team had made under the man he recruited six years ago and insisted McInnes wanted to see the project through, although taking on the national team further down the line would be attractive.

Additional reporting by Ewing Grahame and Frank Gilfeather