DENIS LAW has delivered a withering assessment of Craig Levein’s tenure as Scotland manager and endorsed the credentials of three of his fellow Tartan Army icons to replace the man who was finally sacked by the SFA on Monday.
In Glasgow yesterday for the annual sporting lunch of the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice, the legendary former Manchester United and Scotland striker expressed his sadness at the current state of the international team who sit bottom of their 2014 World Cup qualifying group with just two points from their first four games.
While that was the damning statistic which persuaded the SFA board a change of manager was required, Law believes Levein never recovered from the night in Prague during the failed 2012 European Championship qualifying campaign when he deployed his now notorious 4-6-0 formation.
Law, who scored a record 30 goals in 55 appearances for Scotland between 1958 and 1974, regarded that as an affront to the country’s footballing traditions and insists the players of his generation would have refused to be part of such an ultra-defensive strategy.
“I found it extremely difficult to comprehend that Scotland would play that way,” reflected Law. “I think that was one of the reasons people didn’t take to Craig.
“Scotland were always famous for at least having players who tried to score goals and were exciting. We are going back to my day, but two of the finest players were Jimmy Johnstone and Jim Baxter.
“I could mention many more, but these are players that if they were in that team in Prague, they would have said ‘I’m not playing in that formation’. They would have wanted to go out and enjoyed the game and gone out to attack. That was not good.
“I am not a manager, though, and I don’t know that side of the world. But looking at it as a Scotland supporter, I found it extremely difficult to swallow.”
Happily in good health at the age of 72, having successfully overcome prostate cancer almost ten years ago, Law believes the job of Scotland manager remains prestigious and feels the SFA are fortunate to have what he regards as three outstanding candidates for the job – Joe Jordan, Gordon Strachan and Kenny Dalglish.
Law was a team-mate of both Jordan and Dalglish in the Scotland side which ended the country’s previous longest absence from a major tournament finals, reaching the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, while he has also closely observed Strachan’s playing and managerial career.
“It is the highest honour to manage your country and a lot of the guys would take it as they got a bit older,” said Law. “Towards the end of their managerial career with clubs, they have that more experience.
“They have mentioned Joe, Gordon and Kenny and if one of those three took it, I would have no argument whatsoever. They are three very capable guys who could do a good job for Scotland.
“Joe was a great player and has had good experience coaching clubs teams at a high level. He was a player who would battle on to the end, like all Scottish players should be doing anyway. But he was one who was difficult to play against and I am glad I played alongside him. There would be no giving up and he would fight to the end.
“Gordon was a very experienced player and is a very experienced manager. He was a fantastic player for Aberdeen and Manchester United, plus he also had that cheek about him.
“I think he could make the team more attractive and get out and attack, particularly at home. He is a good lad and I think a good majority of the fans would say he is the one they want. There is no doubt about that. There is nothing really negative about Gordon, his career, what he would like to do and what he would put into the Scottish team.
“Kenny is one of the greatest ever players for Scotland and he has managerial expertise as well. If one those three took the job, there wouldn’t be an argument.
“But whoever takes over has got a very difficult job because they will have to build this team up and get results. Let’s face it, it doesn’t look good when we are bottom of our group and you have got to play some very difficult away games.
“That is why to win at home is so important. When you are trying to qualify for the World Cup, the most important thing is to win your home games. If you can win your home games, there is a fair chance you can qualify.
“When you drop points at home then it is a battle. We haven’t had that and we dropped four points with the two draws at home in September against Serbia and Macedonia. If we had won those two games, then we would be up there.”
• Denis Law was speaking at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow where he was guest of honour at the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice Sporting Lunch in support of their Brick by Brick appeal. In 2011, the Hospice announced plans to build a new state-of-the-art facility in Glasgow. In addition to enhancing existing services for adults, it will also encompass a specialist palliative care service for young people aged 15 and older for the first time.