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Ally McCoist: Old Firm experience prepared Gordon Strachan for Scots job

Gordon Strachan. Picture: Getty

Gordon Strachan. Picture: Getty

  • by STEPHEN HALLIDAY
 

THEIR Scotland playing careers dovetailed only briefly – team-mates on just six occasions amidst their combined tally of 111 caps for their country.

But Ally McCoist learned enough of what makes his fellow Hall of Fame inductee Gordon Strachan tick to convince him that the SFA have employed a man ready-made for the demands of managing the international team.

Since they shared a pitch in dark blue, of course, the career trajectories of McCoist and Strachan have handed them the experience of managing an opposing half of Glasgow’s Old Firm.

Rangers manager McCoist, who had a rewarding spell as Scotland assistant manager under Walter Smith before returning to Ibrox and initially locking horns with Strachan’s Celtic side six years ago, believes nothing can now faze the man the SFA named as the new national team manager on Tuesday. “I remember having a chat with Gordon a few years ago and telling him that a lot of people told me if you can manage at the Old Firm, you can manage absolutely anywhere,” said McCoist.

“It will certainly stand him in very good measure for what he is about to face. Because the Scotland job is certainly up there with the pressure of being an Old Firm manager.

“He knows what is expected of him and I don’t in any way see Gordon having any problems in terms of something coming from left field which would unsettle him. He will know what’s around the corner.

“Gordon is just exactly what you see on the tin. He’s a good coach, a good manager. He’s a feisty character, he wants to win. Everything you would expect from a Scotsman, really. He sums up the Scottish football player and Scottish football fan.

“He was a good team-mate for Scotland. Although he had great individual skills he was very much a team player and he’ll bring those qualities to Scotland.

“It’s important that individuals in a team realise that there are others around them. Gordon could do things on his own out on the pitch but it was always for the team’s benefit and not his own.

“He is knowledgeable and he will absolutely want to succeed. That will be of paramount importance to him. It’s a great appointment and I’m just glad it has been done eventually. We can get on and give Gordon our backing.

“I’m happier with a Scotsman in charge, although I’m pretty open-minded about it.”

Bookmakers have made Strachan odds-on to take Scotland to a major tournament finals for the first time since 1998 but even the instinctively optimistic McCoist believes the new man faces a daunting challenge to justify that kind of backing.

“I hope the bookies are right because they usually are, although I’m not sure about those odds,” added McCoist. “That just shows you the faith that normally intelligent bookmakers have placed in Gordon!

“I won’t be betting against him, but there is an awful lot of work to be done. The forthcoming games will have a huge bearing on that. We need to get points on the board right away to move us back up the World Cup qualifying table for a start.

“Results galvanise players more than anything. Of course we need to improve, everybody realises that. Gordon was right when he said at his press conference that Scotland could have won both of their opening qualifying games at Hampden. They should probably have won in Wales as well.

“But that’s gone, so we need to look at the positives and he’ll probably feel that there isn’t that much that needs to be done to turn draws into wins and defeats into draws.

“When you look at the better Scotland sides of the past, they included players who were competing at the highest level with top, top clubs and we’ve lost our way in that respect in the last few years.

“Celtic and Rangers always made a contribution to that, although it’s only Celtic at the moment, along with teams like Manchester United and Liverpool. There’s certainly no doubt that we lost our way in that regard. Better players play for the better clubs.”

Despite Rangers’ current status as a Third Division club, McCoist expects Strachan to consider some of his players for Scotland duty. “I would absolutely promote any of my players to get into the national team,” said McCoist. “Gordon will watch them. You don’t come into the job and start closing the door on people. That’s the last thing you would do.

“I think it’s fair to say that, for the senior team, his choices here at the moment would be limited, although I’d be very surprised if Gordon or somebody else didn’t have a wee look at Lee Wallace.

“I’m not telling him how to do his job one day into it, but he’s intelligent enough not to close that door, especially when you look at the good young players we already have involved at international level. We’re hopeful we can get our boys back playing international football again.”

 

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