TUESDAY will mark the first anniversary of Craig Levein’s sacking as Scotland manager. Time has duly proved to be a healer for the 49-year-old, who has put the biggest setback of his career behind him and is now itching for a return to the dug-out.
As he waits for the opportunity to repair a coaching reputation damaged by his ill-starred tenure with the national team, Levein accepts he will be viewed warily by some prospective employers.
But the former Hearts, Leicester City and Dundee United manager, who revealed he has already rejected the chance to take charge of another international team, insists he is ready to embrace the pressure and demands of club football again.
“I’ve had a couple of offers and people making a note of interest in me so far,” said Levein. “I thought I had a good chance of getting one job in particular and I’ve been in for another two or three on top of that.
“I understand how the business works – you are either ‘up there’ or ‘down here’. I had a setback at Leicester, did a good job at Dundee United, then got the Scotland job. I’ve had to take a step back since then and when I go back it will be a club job.
“A guy phoned me about an international job, but that’s not for me. I have too much energy for the sporadic stuff.
“It’s a strange thing, once you are in management, it’s foot to the floor, all-consuming. It’s 24 hours, seven days a week. When you’re out of it, it’s different.
“I kind of went half out of it when I went on international duty, when I had those little blocks where it was mental with Scotland, and in between it was low key.”
Levein insists he has no regrets about taking the Scotland job and feels no pangs of envy at the mini-revival currently being enjoyed by his successor Gordon Strachan.
“How could I regret it?” he said. “I had some brilliant times. It was just the level of expectation, that’s all it is.
“Things don’t go your way and I can think of three or four occasions where one thing going for or against us made a big difference. There is nobody happier than me that things are turning round for Scotland.
“The game over in Croatia in June was a huge turning point. That allows the removal of the shackles. People now say ‘wait a minute, if we go to Croatia and win then we can’t be that bad a side’.
“Gordon has done a brilliant job, I’ve an awful lot of time for him. But he now has a group of players growing in confidence. And with that, you guys in the media and the punters are more confident as well.
“You get a little bit of momentum going which I didn’t manage to get. I didn’t get to that point. I take pride in the fact I was the manager and also the fact I still keep in contact with some of the boys for their benefits. They were trying really hard and not getting any reward for it. Now they are getting rewards.”
Levein believes Scotland will be further enhanced by the return of captain Darren Fletcher. The Manchester United midfielder played almost 70 minutes for his club’s under-21 side this week, his first appearance after ten months on the sidelines as he recovers from a serious bowel condition.
“It was excellent to see him play the other night,” said Levein. “He is a top, top bloke. He will never talk about it or let you know exactly what he has been through. If he ever writes the book about it, it’s worth reading, I can tell you. It’s not my place to talk about what he has been through. But I can assure you it’s not pleasant at all.
“I have been in constant contact with him back and forward. He is just an absolute diamond of a bloke and for that to have happened to him and interrupted his life for as long as it has done shows remarkable fortitude. He will be looking at playing some more reserve games. He will then be looking from his point of view at getting back in that Manchester United first team. If he does that, it will be significant as an achievement in its own right.
“After that, then any player of his quality is one I’m sure would be welcome back in the international squad as soon as he is ready. It would be brilliant to see Darren in a Scotland jersey again.”