Gordon Strachan refused last night to broach the subject of what Scotland’s biggest Wembley defeat since 1975 means for his own future.
Strachan’s side were eased aside by England, who were three goals up within an hour after headers by Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Gary Cahill. The rest of the match was played out almost like a training exercise, perhaps the toughest part to bear for 14,000 Scotland supporters – and the players.
Strachan said he felt first and foremost for those forced to chase the ball as England toyed with Scotland towards the end. “I feel hurt they had to go through those last 15 minutes,” the national coach said.
Strachan became irritated by questions about his own future as Scotland slid down to fifth place in Group F, their World Cup hopes receding further over the horizon.
“If you think I am thinking about myself right at this moment in time then you don’t know me,” said Strachan. “You absolutely don’t know me.
“Do you think I come in here and think about myself when all the families and supporters travelled down here? And you think I am thinking about myself?”
Asked when he would think about himself, Strachan responded: “Yeah, probably when I am just about to die. I will think, ‘how did you get on Gordon? Not a bad life’. But at this moment in time, no.
“It is absolutely nothing to do with me,” he added, meaning his current priority is the players’ welfare. “What I have to think about is everybody in that dressing room and how we send them back to their clubs. They should not be down. I will send them back feeling they gave it their best shot.
“I’ve come here with a team that got beaten 2-0 and literally didn’t have a shot at goal – funnily enough some of them are pundits now – but it was nothing like that tonight. That was a braver and more organised performance.
“They [the players] can go away with their families who turned up to watch them, and the supporters, and be proud of their performance. I don’t think I could ask any more in terms of what they have in their locker. You just need a wee break now and again or a wee bit of magic. I feel really down for the lads but proud of what they tried to do.”
Similarly to how he responded after the end of Scotland’s last qualifying campaign, he added he would now speak with his family while also conducting a “de-brief” with his staff. No rushed decision about his future is anticipated.
“[SFA chief executive] Stewart Regan said to me he can’t believe it was 3-0 in Slovakia and 3-0 here,” noted Strachan.
“We will go away now and, like most people, will see my family are alright. They come to every game and want to do well, so I will go see them. And then we will debrief with everybody else. But at this moment the game feels cruel to them tonight. In life, if you put that much work in, somewhere along the line the game has got to give something back.”
Some resignation was evident, a hint that he might now believe he can do no more with these players. “I don’t think we can work any harder,” said Strachan. “They [the players] haven’t got any more in their locker.”