ON a day when he was on duty to promote managerial achievement, Gordon Strachan inevitably found himself facing questions about one of the highest profile cases of failure his profession has witnessed in recent times.
But, if David Moyes’ sacking by Manchester United after just ten months in charge is the subject on everyone’s lips this week, Strachan is unwilling to join the debate.
The Scotland manager was at Hampden yesterday, revealing the four nominees for this season’s PFA Scotland Manager of the Year award. Strachan was happy to wax lyrical about the respective merits of Celtic boss Neil Lennon, Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, Stuart McCall at Motherwell and St Johnstone’s Tommy Wright, one of whom will receive the prize at PFA Scotland’s annual dinner in Glasgow on Sunday night.
Strachan’s views on the demise of Moyes at Old Trafford, where he spent five years as a player and performed under Sir Alex Ferguson’s peerless management, would perhaps carry more insight and relevance than most of those which have been offered over the past few days. Strachan, however, was in no mood to share them.
“I really want to keep away from David Moyes, only out of respect to him,” he said. “Everyone has an opinion of him. If it’s not a negative opinion, then it’s a patronising one. I don’t want to get involved in anything about it at all.
“David will be delighted I have nothing to say about it. As a manager, you don’t want to be patronised. It will be a relief for David for someone to stay quiet and shut their mouth.”
Moyes, of course, will receive significant financial compensation for his abortive bid to follow in Ferguson’s footsteps. That eye-popping level of remuneration – reported to be as much as £10 million – is an example of why Strachan believes there is actually less pressure on managers in England’s top flight than on those operating on limited budgets and much lower salaries in the Scottish Premiership.
“The English Premier League is stressful, but you get paid lots of money for that,” said Strachan. “I remember one manager telling me about the stress of it and I said ‘Aye, but you get paid a fortune, don’t you?’ He said ‘Aye’. I said ‘That’s why you get paid a fortune’.
“It’s not to pick great players – that’s the easy bit. It’s for dealing with the nonsense that comes along with the job. That’s hard and that’s why in England it’s not such a bitter blow when you lose your job. It hurts your pride, but you get well paid.
“It’s different for the managers in Scotland, where you don’t get so much money and that money is to keep your family going. You don’t get sacked up here and say ‘Great, that’s us for life financially now’. So there is probably more pressure on the managers here, especially the ones in the bottom six of the Premiership right now.
“There are five managers down there now wandering about at four or five o’clock in the morning, unable to sleep and wondering who they should pick for their next game. If you can survive that, you get stronger and can climb the ladder.”
Moyes’ dismissal leaves Paul Lambert at Aston Villa as the only Scottish manager currently operating in the English Premier League, compared with a recent high water mark of seven from a nation which prides itself on producing so many of the profession’s finest operators.
Strachan is unconcerned by this season’s events, which have also seen two other Scots – Malky Mackay at Cardiff and Steve Clarke at West Brom – sacked.
“I didn’t even know there was a demise going on,” he shrugged. “Over the ages, we have had top managers, that’s for sure. I don’t think that’s going to change. We have that track record. We have that anger about us that you need sometimes.
“The game is changing and we all have to change to suit the game, by the looks of it. There are different types of management and you have to change to suit whatever is needed for that particular time in football.”
Strachan himself, however, has no desire to return to club management as he focuses his attention on improving the fortunes of his national team.
“The only thing I miss about full-time club football management is coaching players every day,” he added. “The rest of it? No. Would I take a fortune for a high stress job? No, I wouldn’t do it just for money. I would do it because I thought I could. But full-time football isn’t on my horizon right now. Life doesn’t get any better for me just now. So I’m alright. It’s good to be able to say that.
“Sometimes it’s stress in club management, sometimes it’s disappointment at what goes on round about you. You get disappointed in people. That would be my problem now - I get disappointed in people easily.
“The Scotland job has proved a better job than I thought it would be, only because the results have got better. It is all determined by that. I keep hearing people want to see good football and all the rest of it. It’s a nonsense. All everybody wants to watch is winning football.
“In my current job, I’ve got the expectations of the whole nation to meet and there’s nothing worse than disappointing them. But there’s nothing better than making a whole nation happy. As you walk about just now, people are quite happy and looking forward to what’s going on.”