SFA president Alan McRae has expressed confidence that Gordon Strachan will remain in charge of the national team for the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign irrespective of how the quest for a place in the Euro 2016 finals ends.
Scotland can now only reach the French finals via the November play-offs after the loss to Germany on Monday evening ended any hopes of finishing in the top two in Group D.
The recent downturn in Scotland’s fortunes – exemplified by the 1-0 defeat in Georgia last Friday – has raised fears that Strachan could decide he has taken the country as far as he can in the event of being unable to bring an end to 18 years without an appearance in a major finals for the nation. His current deal expires in the autumn.
No contract discussions with Strachan will take place until Scotland’s Euro 2016 campaign concludes at the behest of the 58-year-old. But McRae believes little should be read into that fact and considers that the undoubted improvement Strachan has presided over across two-and-a-half years in charge of the national team will hold sway.
“I’m going to stick my neck out and say I don’t think Gordon will want to leave the job,” McRae said yesterday. “He loves the job, it’s the right job for him. He hasn’t got the day-to-day issues he’d have with other jobs. I might be wrong but I don’t think so.
“Even though it’s a board decision at the end of the day I cannot see any of our board wanting anything other than Gordon continuing. There’s been progress. Everything doesn’t become bad because of one result which wasn’t what we thought we’d get [in Georgia].
“It’ll be up to him but at the end of the day he has a contract and we always said we’d look at it after the campaign. That’s what he wanted and he’s happy with that. At the end of the day he’s the man and he’ll decide his own destiny. But I would imagine we’d sit down with him after the campaign has finished, one way or another, and talk about things.
“Surely everyone can see there has been improvement in this campaign. Up until Friday we were right there in the mix. We’re still in the mix but maybe not quite as good as we were on Friday. The Poland game is an important game, we’ve always said that. I thought the boys did really, really, really well against Germany but now, unfortunately, we now need to rely on other results.
“We all know football is about ifs and buts.”
To reach the play-offs by claiming third place – currently occupied by the Republic of Ireland, who sit above Scotland and below Poland – Strachan’s side will need to avoid defeat in what is now a pivotal match against the Poles at Hampden on 8 October. The home side will require a draw at the very least and hope the Republic lose their final two games at home to Germany and away to Poland.
Scotland’s hand would be significantly strengthened by a win over Poland, coupled with a defeat for Ireland against Germany.
Were the latter outcomes to ensue, a Scottish win away to Gibraltar on the final Group D matchday four days later would mean that Poland and the Republic, who then meet in Warsaw, could not both finish above Strachan’s side – regardless of how their encounter plays out. For all the doomsaying that understandably surround Scotland’s prospects following last Friday’s dismal defeat in Georgia, such a set of results remains in the realm of the possible.
McRae, meanwhile, had to defend, at length, the travel arrangements that led to Scotland’s charter turning up hours late in Tbilisi for their overnight Friday return, resulting in the players still being in baggage reclaim at Glasgow Airport at 7am on Saturday.
There were also suggestions there was little legroom on the aircraft, with the more spacious front section of seats taken up by SFA officials instead of players. McRae rubbished suggestions that the need for a different charter on the outward journey and return was down to cost. It was “definitely not” the case, according to the Association president, with no imperative to save up to £160,000, as has been reported.
“We will look at the situation and we will have a full review and see where we were and how it happened,” he said. “When it was organised it was done in a way in which it wouldn’t develop in the way it did. We have to review how can you get quality aircraft. I don’t get involved in it but there are problems in getting aircraft at times, especially in the summer time.”