‘All Strachan cares about is a win against Poland’

Scotland assistant manager Mark McGhee points the way for his boss Gordon Strachan during a training session yesterday . Picture: PA
Scotland assistant manager Mark McGhee points the way for his boss Gordon Strachan during a training session yesterday . Picture: PA
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MARK McGhee is confident Gordon Strachan has made no plans beyond securing six points from the upcoming double header with Poland and Gibraltar which holds the key to Scotland’s Euro 2016 qualification hopes.

The manager’s future and that of McGhee, his assistant, has been thrown into doubt due to the size of the task faced by Scotland, who must also rely on other results to reach France. McGhee stressed Strachan is focused only on what happens over the next six days.

Asked whether he had any inkling about Strachan’s thoughts on whether he wishes to continue as manager in the event of failure to reach the play-offs, McGhee said: “No idea.”

But he emphasised that the management team’s advice to the players to focus only on Thursday’s clash at Hampden Park applied to them as well.

“Seriously, I swear to God, I’ve no idea,” McGhee continued. “We’ve not had that discussion, it’s not relevant to this.

“If we start thinking about that then I’m contradicting everything I’m saying about what we want and how we want the boys to think. We are not thinking about anything other than what their [Poland’s] XI might be and what our XI might be and the best way to go about beating them.”

Scotland need to avoid defeat by Poland on Thursday to maintain their Euro 2016 lifeline, while hoping Ireland fail to secure an unlikely victory over Germany on the same night.

Scotland suffered a setback yesterday when it was confirmed the versatile Charlie Mulgrew is out due to injury, as is Kevin McDonald, who withdrew from the squad on Sunday.

Norwich City midfielder Graham Dorrans has been drafted in as cover. Ikechi Anya is also carrying a knock. However, McGhee said “there shouldn’t be a problem” over the Watford winger’s availability for a game that pitches Scotland against Robert Lewandowski, currently Europe’s hottest striker with 12 goals in his last four games for Bayern Munich.

If things go awry, Scotland could be faced with a dead rubber against Gibraltar in Faro on Sunday and Strachan and McGhee’s future plans, as well as those of coach Stuart McCall, will become an issue again.

The recent spate of job opportunities both north and south of the border has sparked speculation that McGhee could leave his post in any case, with a return to currently managerless Motherwell mooted.

McCall has been linked with Dundee United, who sacked Jackie McNamara last week. Strachan, meanwhile, is reaching the end of his current contract.

Although both Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan and president Alan McRae have recently confirmed they want the manager to remain in charge for the forthcoming World Cup qualifying campaign, Strachan’s own preference remains unclear.

McGhee stressed that Strachan is only thinking about the job in hand. He added that being Scotland manager suited his long-time friend.

“Gordon is doing this job because he wants to do the job, not particularly because he has to do the job,” said McGhee.

“He is doing the job because he loves doing this job and therefore he will keep doing it until something changes, either in him or somebody else.”

McGhee is also the subject of speculation. He claimed yesterday that while he is keen to return to full-time management, he isn’t interested if it will “compromise my ability to do this job”.

McGhee said Motherwell “know my phone number” if they wanted his help.

“If something else came along that allowed me to continue to do this [the Scotland assistant manager’s job] then I would consider it,” he added.

“I’m not finished by any means in full-time management I hope. I know I’m getting older and it’s getting more difficult.

“But I feel young at heart, I keep myself relatively fit, I keep up with methods and thinking and I’m ready to go back in at any time either as a manager, a coach or an assistant doing the job that I’m doing for Gordon at a club. But I will not do it at the expense of this job.”

“It’s not a distraction for me because, apart from anything else, I live down south so I don’t see it,” he continued, with reference to the speculation linking him with Motherwell.

“They know me, they know my phone number, if they needed or wanted any help then they only need to pick up the phone.

“I’m not pimping myself for Motherwell, I’m not putting anyone under any pressure. They know where I am.”