CRAIG Levein has insisted he has no intention of stepping down as Scotland manager despite watching his team slide to the bottom of their World Cup qualifying group last night.
A 2-0 defeat by Belgium in Brussels left the Scots eight points behind the Group A leaders after just four games of the campaign, extinguishing any flickering hopes of making it to Brazil in 2014.
But although Levein accepts he now looks certain to be responsible for a second failed qualification bid as Scotland manager, having also flopped in his bid to take the country to the 2012 European Championships, he is still hopeful of being retained by the SFA.
Levein’s contract has more than a year to run, leaving the SFA to decide whether to extend it for the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign or dismiss him now and begin the search for a successor. Asked if he would consider resigning, Levein was unequivocal.
“No, not at all,” he said. “I’m very proud to be the Scottish national team manager and I want to continue to do so. I’ve been in football long enough to understand when the players are trying at their maximum and when they are trying to their best for each other and the team.
“Absolutely tonight, and on Friday night in Wales when we lost 2-1, they did everything they could. They didn’t have any energy left at the end of the match. They have done everything possible to try and get a result for Scotland.
“Qualification looks very difficult, doesn’t it? We are sitting with two points from 12, so I’d have to agree with that. I understand that we are bottom of the group now. But I absolutely look at the performances and I can tell you we definitely deserved something from the match on Friday evening.
“The players gave everything they could to win the game and something outwith their control had an influence on that. I see again tonight against Belgium a group of players who are hungry and determined and desperate to do well for Scotland.
“So as long as that is the case, I am quite happy to be working with these players. All I can tell you is that I want to remain as the manager. That’s what I want to do.
“Other than that, you will have to ask other people the questions you are asking me. The clarification from me is that, so far as I am aware, I am still doing my job. You have to ask other people the questions you are asking me.”
One banner unfurled by the Tartan Army last night bore the words ‘Strachan SOS’. Former Celtic manager Gordon Strachan is among the favourites to replace Levein if the SFA decide his time is up, with Joe Jordan another potential contender.
But Levein again claimed he remains oblivious to any groundswell of public opinion demanding his removal from his post. “I am more interested in staying in the job and working hard to improve things,” he said. “We are looking at a situation where we have to improve as a nation and a country in our production of football players. Belgium are the perfect example.
“They have put a system in place and if you stick with it you have the opportunity to produce players we were playing against tonight. That’s something I feel is really important. So I will do the absolute best I can with the players we have got. They are doing their best for me. They are doing their best for the country and as far as I am concerned then 100 per cent I want to work with them. I just want to remain in the job I am in, nothing more than that.”
Levein accepted his team were deservedly beaten by a Belgian side who had to wait until the 69th and 71st minutes to score the goals from Christian Benteke and Vincent Kompany which earned all three points.
“It was a fair result,” said Levein. “We tried manfully for 90 minutes to contain Belgium. We were hoping we could do something on the counter attack.
“I need to commend the players on their efforts tonight, the way they stuck to the game plan. At a time when we seemed to have weathered the worst of the storm, we lost concentration at a set piece and it enabled Belgium to get the first goal.
“I couldn’t sit here honestly and say we deserved to win the match. We had hoped to hit on the counter attack and there were spells when we did keep the ball reasonably well. We probably needed to do it a little bit more often to give us a chance to get the first goal.
“We also have to acknowledge how good a team Belgium are. They are really strong all over the pitch. I commend the players for the way they managed to contain them for long periods.”