A cynic may suggest Scottish football’s governing body didn’t want to pay off the struggling national team boss, writes Craig Fowler
Whether they truly believe or not that Scotland can still qualify for the World Cup, the decision by the SFA board members to stick with Gordon Strachan is a maddening one. If they share the opinion of the majority of the fans and think qualification is nearly impossible, then why not get a new man in place now and give him time to get settled and build toward the next qualification campaign? If they do believe it’s still achievable, then what is it they see in Strachan’s work over the last 15 months to think he’s the man to lead us there.
To achieve second place Scotland would, essentially, have to go undefeated for the remainder of the group matches. I’ve included the kind of run we’d have to go on in the tweet above. The incredible thing is, with some momentum behind us, that not impossible. Highly unlikely, obviously, seeing as we’ve not gone undefeated in six consecutive competitive matches since 2001, but this is one of the easier groups we’ve had. While the 3-0 defeats in both Slovakia and England, on paper our hardest games, showed many problems with the international side, it also highlighted the lack of quality in both of our opponents. Had Scotland been playing with the confidence and togetherness of the early Strachan days, you’d have fancied us to get something from both games. A new manager with new ideas could instil a new sense of belief and use a win in the opening game against Slovenia to rebuild the lost momentum.
It’s hard not to be cynical when it comes to the SFA and whether they’re influenced by the old Scottish stereotype of being tightfisted. According to newspaper reports, it would cost £800k to pay off Strachan and his staff. The SFA’s actions since the defeat at Wembley were hardly a glowing endorsement. They remained tight-lipped instead of backing him, while leaving it to the man himself. Instead of being decisive one way or another, they waited for Strachan to make up his own mind. Had they wanted him to stay, as the unanimous decision made at yesterday’s board meeting would suggest, then why didn’t they give some sort of public backing? Surely saying something nice about the man in the press would convince Strachan to stay, if that’s what they really wanted. We were led to assume he’d get his marching orders if he didn’t walk of his own accord. It seems to this writer that the SFA were hoping he’d walk away in the manner he did at Celtic and Middlesbrough when pressure was applied. Then, when Strachan decided he wanted to remain, they were left with a difficult decision and took the easy way out.
The hope for the SFA, because we are not qualifying for Russia 2018, is that Scotland fair a bit better in front of a half-empty Hampden at home to Slovenia, and then do likewise against England and Slovakia; maybe not necessarily win the games, but give a good enough account of themselves to finish third in the group. The SFA can then claim they were right to keep Strachan, without having to pay another manager’s salary. Meanwhile, the Tartan Army would remain stuck in Groundhog Day, hoping the next manager coming in can do what nobody else has managed successfully in the last 18 years and that’s saved us from our own football association.