TWO names have been struck off the list of candidates to be Craig Levein’s successor after Alex McLeish and Stuart McCall yesterday ruled themselves out of the running for the post of Scotland manager.
However, Gordon Strachan, who remains the bookmakers’ favourite, is reportedly still interested in becoming the next Scotland manager, and he received strong backing yesterday from Neil Lennon, the man he brought back to Celtic as coach and who later followed in his footsteps as manager at Parkhead.
Joe Jordan, who spent last season as first-team coach at Tottenham Hotspur, has also reiterated his desire to be considered. “I am Scottish, I’m a proud Scotsman and a person that wants to work,” he said yesterday. “And, for my name to be mentioned, yes, it’s nice to be linked with the national job.”
Jordan would certainly meet Lennon’s ‘legend’ requirement when it comes to naming a successor to Levein.
While Lennon acknowledged that he might be “biased”, he described Strachan as the “outstanding candidate”. He also expressed sympathy for Levein, who, he said, had been let down by the players. Strachan, the Celtic manager added, has the strength of personality required to ensure the team plays to its potential.
While it should not be interpreted as a comment on Levein’s reign, Lennon believes his successor needs to be someone the players “will look up to”. “There are a lot of good candidates out there when you think of Walter Smith, Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, Gordon, Joe Jordan – these guys have fantastic pedigrees,” he said. “There’s no reason why one of them couldn’t come in and resurrect them [Scotland].”
Asked whether Scotland required a former playing legend to resuscitate fortunes and revive interest in the team, Lennon replied: “You will have to ask the players.”
However, he acknowledged there is an air of authority which comes from having played at a high level with Scotland. Levein, it must be remembered, also appeared for Scotland at a World Cup and often spoke of how it was his dream to lead the team back to that level of competition.
However, Monday’s decision by the SFA board to relieve him of his duties means Levein will not be remembered as the man who led Scotland back to a major finals. Instead, the SFA must go back to the drawing board.
Interim manager Billy Stark will name his squad for next Wednesday’s friendly against Luxembourg at midday today. Stark will be assisted by Donald Park, who is head of coach education at the SFA, next week.
Meanwhile, others were withdrawing from the running to replace Levein. McCall, who won 40 caps with Scotland and is now receiving plaudits for his achievements in charge at Motherwell, yesterday said he was not ready for the Scotland post. “If it was to come about in ten years’ time it would certainly be a job I would be honoured to do,” he said.
McLeish, whose time in charge of Scotland is fondly remembered, said that he would be a “hypocrite” if he asked to be considered for a return to the role from which he resigned, after a Euro 2008 qualifying defeat to Italy in 2007. McLeish walked out on Scotland to take over at Birmingham City and he is alert to how this was perceived at the time by the Tartan Army.