Campbell Ogilvie yesterday backed the job started by Gordon Strachan while stressing that only qualification for a major tournament can restore credibility to the Scotland national side.
At best Scotland can only finish in fourth place in the group while there is also still the danger of finishing in last place, with Croatia due at Hampden Park on Tuesday for the final Group A World Cup qualifying fixture. The draw for the Euro 2016 qualifying groups is scheduled for February, and Ogilvie is hopeful that recent on-field improvements under Strachan can lead to some tangible reward.
“Credibility comes over a period of time and I think we want to start qualifying for major tournaments,” said the SFA president, who was speaking at the third round draw for the William Hill Scottish Cup yesterday.
The current qualifying campaign began with Craig Levein in charge, and amid firm hopes that Scotland might end their exile from a major finals, one that now stretches as far as 15 years. However, a poor start led to Strachan being given the opportunity to improve the national team’s fortunes, and two impressive away wins in Croatia and Macedonia have restored some confidence within the squad, as did a strong showing against England in the 3-2 at Wembley in August.
“He seems to have a settled squad and I’d say we’re finishing higher than we were a few a few months ago when he took on the reins,” said Ogilvie. “To be fair to Gordon, he came in at a difficult time with a limited number of games remaining. He has done very well since he came in. I think credibility will come back once we start qualifying for major tournaments. We’re on a road just now, we’re on a journey — and, hopefully, I believe, we’re seeing positive signs of being on the right road. But the aim has got to be qualifying for major tournaments.”
Ogilvie praised Strachan’s qualities and admitted that both he and chief executive Stewart Regan know there are lines they cannot cross when it comes to on-field matters.
“Even before he worked here I always got on very well with him,” he said. “I’ve known him over the course of many years, under different guises.
“Gordon’s a very infectious character. He’s very good, very bubbly, apart from the footballing aspect. I certainly know the line not to cross, I don’t cross into the football domain, you’ll be glad to know. ”
Scotland’s home form has been poor during this campaign. Two draws at Hampden against Serbia and Macedonia meant Scotland were struggling to qualify after the opening double-header. Levein was sacked after Scotland lost their next two away games against Wales and Belgium. Although Strachan’s arrival has seen an upswing in results, he has still to see his side win at Hampden, which is the aim on Tuesday night.
Ogilvie does not expect the attendance to exceed 30,000, but pointed out that this still compares well with elsewhere in Europe. “I don’t know the final attendance for the game coming up, maybe mid-20s to the high 20s,” he said. “Bear in mind we’ve not qualified and it’s on a Tuesday night. I’m more interested in the team continuing to improve and, obviously, that will help attendances. If you compare attendances throughout Europe, the Scottish attendances at home are still pretty high considering we haven’t qualified.”