ON THE eve of his biggest game as Scotland manager, Gordon Strachan has emphasised how content he is in his current role.
Outlining a bucolic recent existence where he wakes up, gazes out at the picturesque surroundings in which the Scotland squad are based and then trains with many of the best players he has worked alongside, he stressed “life doesn’t get much better”.
I train and laugh with real good players. I don’t think life gets much betterGordon Strachan
Of course, with tomorrow’s critical Euro 2016 Group D qualifying clash with Ireland looming ever nearer, the tension is increasing even amid such scenery.
While Strachan conceded there is a “wee bit of nervousness” ahead of the trip to Dublin, the Scotland manager would rather not be anywhere else than in charge of the national team for such a critical fixture. However, with his long-term future still not settled, he noted he has always followed Billy Connolly’s mantra of not planning anything in life.
A win for Scotland tomorrow would leave them five points ahead of Ireland and on course for a play-off place at least. A draw would also be helpful to Scotland but a defeat would leave them with much to do if they are to qualify for Euro 2016.
The 58-year-old Strachan’s contract expires in November and talks have still to begin with a view to extending it, although Stewart Regan, the chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, expressed the hope earlier this week that the manager would remain in place until he collects his bus pass.
“I don’t think he realises I’m not 64!” quipped Strachan. “All I want to do is make these players and this squad better. Anyone who knows me will say I’ve never had a long-term plan for anything. None whatsoever. Billy Connolly says it. He says: ‘I just ended up here.’ It’s a wonderful way to lead your life, I think. It’s fantastic.”
“I’m excited about the game coming up. There’s a wee bit of nervousness which you always have, which is great,” he added.
“I’ve been waking up for the last two weeks, looking out on to the scenery out there,” he continued, pointing to a window at Scotland’s Renfrewshire HQ. “Then I’ve been walking up to the pitch with the lads who are all real good players. I then train with them and laugh with them. So I don’t think life can get that much better.”
It hasn’t always been like this, he acknowledged. A solid start to the qualifying campaign saw Regan claim Strachan had done as much as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to “rally the nation”. Scotland sit third in Group D having taken ten points from their opening five matches.
But it was a different story when Strachan began his tenure in the bleak times following Craig Levein’s sacking as manager, when Scotland’s hopes of qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil had already evaporated. Strachan’s arrival did not signal an immediate change of fortune.
Although he tasted success in his first match in charge, a friendly victory over Estonia, Scotland fell to two poor defeats in his first two competitive matches in charge against Wales and Serbia respectively.
“If you asked me after the first three weeks I’d have said ‘no, I hate this’,” said Strachan. “But it’s like anything else, when you start getting success in football there is enjoyment. When you see people doing well that makes a big difference.”
On whether he prefers international management to club management, where his last job ended badly at Middlesbrough, he said: “It suits my lifestyle at the moment, yeah, it definitely suits my lifestyle at the moment.”
“Listen, as I’ve said, I never plan ahead,” he added. “I like what I’m doing just now and I enjoy working with these lads. The other day I was watching training and I stood back and said to the other coaches: ‘it’s great watching great players, isn’t it.’
“I usually watch for the first 15 minutes and then step in and give them wee reminders of what we do. But after 15 minutes the other day I said: ‘nope, I don’t need to give you any reminders,’ and walked back off again.”