FORMER Sunderland manager Ricky Sbragia has been promoted to Scotland Under-21 head coach.
Sbragia steps up from the under-19s to become permanent successor to Billy Stark, who left his post in November last year.
The primary responsibility is to help prepare players to make that leap to Gordon Strachan’s A squadRicky Sbragia
Sbragia initially acted as caretaker for a friendly in Switzerland before Danny Lennon took over on a short-term basis, before the former St Mirren boss returned to club football with Alloa.
Sbragia takes charge weeks before Scotland kick off their UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualification campaign away to Northern Ireland on September 5.
The former Manchester United reserve-team coach sparked controversy earlier this year when he branded then Real Madrid player Jack Harper a “luxury” as he left him out of his under-19s squad for a qualifying group in favour of “runners” and taller, more physical players.
Sbragia’s team were unbeaten in their three games but failed to make the finals, while Harper went on to join Brighton.
Sbragia, who will be assisted by former Hearts and Inverness coach Donald Park, said in a Scottish Football Association statement: “I am acutely aware of the importance of the job in what for many young professionals should be the final stage before entering the full international team.
“The primary responsibility is to help prepare players to make that leap to Gordon Strachan’s A squad but it is also important that we work hard to ensure we are ready to make an impact in the forthcoming European Championship qualifiers which start in September.”
Scot Gemmill steps up from the under-17s to fill Sbragia’s previous role and both coaches will assume responsibility for the younger age group until a new appointment is made.
The changes have been introduced by the SFA’s new performance director, Brian McClair, who worked with Sbragia at Old Trafford.
McClair said: “Having set out to speak to as many people in the game as possible during my first weeks in the job, I have been greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm and sense of common purpose shared by our member clubs to make the national game better.
“I am confident that today’s appointments will be a positive step in that direction.”