GORDON Strachan will know he is succeeding as Scotland manager when his team becomes as celebrated as the Tartan Army.
The 55-year-old, who has signed a contract up to Euro 2016, is taking over the national side at a low point in its fortunes.
But, speaking at Hampden yesterday as his appointment was confirmed, he insisted he had faith in his players, and hoped to inspire them into
repaying the supporters for sticking with them.
“The fans are more famous than the team at the moment,” said Strachan, who has succeeded Craig Levein after two and a half years out of management. “And we have to try to get up there, and together be as famous as them. I really want the squad and the staff to give something back to the country and the fans who support us, and make them turn up for a major finals competition.”
Strachan refused to write off the current World Cup qualifying campaign as a lost cause, and insisted that Scotland will go all-out to win every game, assuring supporters that they will “give it a go”.
He knows, too, that Levein’s relationship with the fans suffered as a result of the defensive formations he played but, rather than taking the easy option and proclaiming his commitment to an attack-minded system, Strachan said he would adopt one most suited to the players at his disposal. The former Coventry, Southampton, Celtic and Middlesbrough manager is aware his squad is short of world-class talent, but insisted: “There’s nothing wrong with the attitude. Nothing wrong. You may say they’re not the best bunch of players, but they’re the best at the time.
“When I started playing I thought ‘I’d love to manage Scotland one day’ and players have helped me achieve that. The main thing is to make people happy.
“The standard of football in Europe has improved dramatically in the past 20 years. We need to find a system that suits the squad here.
“When is the perfect time to come in? I don’t know. I just feel at this moment that it’s right for me to come in. Where we want to go is just get better.
“I am very, very proud in myself, and my family are proud I’ve become Scotland manager. It’s a great day for me to do this and it’s been 40 years in the making. There’ll be rough times, but I know there’ll be good times too.”
Strachan aims to appoint an assistant and a third, younger coach, both of whom will be part-time appointments.
He refused to say who he had in mind, but he has been linked with fellow-international Gary McAllister. He will also liaise closely with under-21 coach Billy Stark and SFA performance director Mark Wotte.
“I hope to get a team of three of us,” he continued. “They have to be Scottish. I will be working closely with Billy Stark, especially, but I’m hoping to bring in someone who is maybe a bit younger. On the touchline there should be three of us and I’m hoping one would be a younger Scotsman who’s trying to progress his coaching. They wouldn’t be full-time, they’d only be coming along on a match-to-match basis.”
Strachan was first linked with his new job back in 2004, when he was between his posts at Southampton and Celtic, but was overlooked in favour of Walter Smith. While he might well have accepted the job then had it been offered, he explained that, on this occasion, the timing was ideal, and that the appeal of the job outweighed any possible drawbacks.
“It’s too good not to take it, especially at my age and with what I want to do with my life. It fits in with everything I want to do. I can still spend time with my grandchildren, children, and do other things. It depends what you want to do in life.
“This might not have any value to someone at 42 and just coming into the game as a manager. But for me it’s right.
“I could have done other things in the last two and a half years, but it would just have been for the money. But once I was offered this job, the more I thought about it the more I wanted to do it.”
Strachan’s first match in charge will be next month’s friendly against Estonia at Pittodrie, where he first made his name as a player.
“No matter where it was it would still be exciting,” he said. “I think my first cap was in Belfast. It’s not a Mecca of football, but you still remember it. It didn’t matter where it was to be honest with you.”
SFA chief executive Stewart Regan welcomed Strachan, saying that he and his colleagues had quickly been convinced he was the right man for the job. “As a manager, he has experience at the highest level in England and Scotland, most notably
taking Celtic into the last 16 of the Champions League.
“Within minutes of meeting Gordon to discuss the possibility, we were left in no doubt that he was the man to help rejuvenate our Fifa World Cup Brazil 2014 qualifying campaign, starting with the March double-header against Wales and Serbia.
“It is fitting that his first match as Scotland national coach will be a return to Pittodrie, a venue that holds many dear memories, and I am sure the Scotland supporters will be out in force to give him a warm welcome.”