SCOTLAND under Gordon Strachan are more expansive, more fluid, more engaging and more organisationally adept than they were under his predecessor, Craig Levein. You would go far to find anyone who would disagree with that. Even Levein, in his heart of hearts, might not.
Yet, none of these aspects is reflected in the number-crunching. What the bald statistics claim is that Scotland were more or less as capable of producing a result helmed by Levein as they are now in the Strachan era.
As it stands, both men have led their country in 24 internationals. With five draws apiece, the only difference in their records, in essence, is that Strachan won a game that Levein lost: the former boasting 11 victories and eight defeats to the latter’s 10 wins and nine losses.
Even the goal difference is pretty similar, with Strachan edging that 32-27 to his predecessor’s 30-31. On the scoring and conceding front in defence of Levein, he never had the turkey shoot of a game against lowest-ranked European team Gibraltar, who Scotland face in a meaningless concluding Euro 2016 qualifier this evening.
Overall, Levein’s efforts in the last Euro qualifiers no longer look a whole heap different from what has ensued for Strachan this time around.
For the 16-team 2012 finals, Scotland were placed in a five-team group containing the world champions Spain and direct rival Czech Republic, and finished below both.
For next year’s expanded 24-country edition of the tournament, Scotland were placed in a six-team section with the world champions Germany, direct rivals Poland and Republic of Ireland, and finished below all three of them.
In the 2012 and 2016 qualifiers, Scotland performed creditably against the world champions but could not sneak a point in either of the two matches. Again, that was more understandable in the Levein era.
Spain won every one of their group matches to provide the foundations that would take them all the way to the winners’ podium come the finals. Germany, as it stands, have looked so vulnerable subsequent to their World Cup triumph, they do not look like potential winners in France next summer.
Assuming either the Republic of Ireland or Poland make it through a play-off, even in a 24-team finals in France next summer neither would be favoured to win a group.
It isn’t just managers but the Scotland players’ management of key fixtures that is fundamental in the country’s continued exile from major finals.
MANAGER P W D L F A
Gordon Strachan 24 11 5 8 32 27
Craig Levein 24 10 5 9 30 31