SFA delays decision and may yet defy public demand for Craig Levein’s head
SCOTLAND manager Craig Levein may yet be reprieved by the Scottish Football Association’s board, according to insiders.
The governing body has come under severe pressure to sack Levein following the dismal start to Scotland’s Brazil 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. But the national manager has made it clear he will not step down, despite calls, including one from former SFA chief executive Gordon Smith, for him to resign.
And the seven members of the SFA board who will decide Levein’s fate are keen to see if the outcry following defeat in the double header away to Wales and then Belgium will subside.
It is understood that they are happy that Levein’s week-long break following those games will give them time to see if the dust will settle
Although there has been support for Levein among those who believe the state of the game in Scotland is to blame rather then the man in charge of the national side, the Tartan Army appear to have lost patience.
During the 2-0 defeat in Brussels, which followed a 2-1 reverse in Wales and draws in the opening two home games against Macedonia and Serbia, some supporters held up a banner calling for former Celtic manager Gordon Strachan to get the job. Scotland currently sit bottom of Group A.
Numerous other prospective candidates have been discussed freely in the media and on fans’ messageboards but the SFA board’s meeting with Levein to review the qualifying results so far will not even take place this week and will instead be some time in the following seven days.
Insiders have indicated members of the board are seriously considering rejecting popular opinion and giving Levein a stay of execution, although whether their opinions will carry enough weight to win a vote is unclear.
The anger at Scotland’s World Cup results is due to their qualifying hopes being all but over after just four games but Scotland on Sunday can reveal that, while the publicly stated aim was for Scotland to reach a major championships for the first time since 1998, privately the SFA board and management team had a slightly different view. They were well aware of the hurdles in the team’s path.
Scotland were only fourth seeds in a tough qualifying group and the squad at Levein’s disposal was limited. The private SFA view is that, while qualification was the ultimate goal, a third place finish in the group was always a more realistic target.
Some of those who will make the decision on Levein’s future claim that would constitute improvement and, despite taking only two points from the first four games, the side remain just two points adrift of that target.
And while the performance and result against Macedonia was hugely disappointing, the feeling is that the players were pitted against a vastly superior team in Brussels.
As for the Wales match, some inside the SFA regard the fact that a perfectly good goal, which would have put Scotland 2-0 up, was disallowed, as a valid reason rather than an excuse for the defeat.
The issue of seeding for future tournaments is also an issue and the need for Scotland to avoid falling further, or even possibly improve to third seed, will form part of the SFA decision-making process on Levein.
The SFA board, comprising chief executive Stewart Regan, president Campbell Ogilvie, vice-presidents Alan McRae and Rod Petrie, Ralph Topping, the chairman of the SPL, president of the Scottish Junior FA Tom Johnston and non-executive director Barrie Jackson, have over a week to formulate their thoughts before seeking answers from Levein.
The Scotland manager has a record of ten wins, five draws and nine defeats since taking the helm, although only three of those wins have come in competitive action, two over Liechtenstein and one over Lithuania. The next competitive match is not until March next year, when Scotland play host to Wales.
The board may decide to give Levein at least until a friendly match in Luxembourg on 10 November although some members will want him to stay on to the end of the qualifying campaign.
Levein believes his trump card is that he has invested so much in
getting it right behind the scenes.
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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