Strachan suits Scotland job, says Neville Southall
GORDON Strachan has received perhaps the ultimate in back-handed compliments from Welsh goalkeeping legend Neville Southall, who has explained why he believes the recently appointed Scotland manager is the right man for the job.
Speaking ahead of Strachan’s first competitive fixture against Wales at Hampden tomorrow night, Southall claimed that the irregularity of contact between a coach and his players in international football will prove to be a benefit for the former Southampton, Celtic and Middlesbrough manager.
“This job will suit Gordon better than a club job,” said Southall. “He is an impact manager, a bubbly fella. As players, if you see him all the time I’d imagine he would get on your nerves because he is always so enthusiastic.
“But over a short period of time, I’d imagine he would do really well. He’s well-suited for international football. He’s been about and worked with different clubs. He’s got different calibres of player at his disposal, so it will be interesting to see what he does.
“He has picked his time to come into the job. It’s a good time to do it, because Craig Levein was defensive and doesn’t have the personality Gordon has. People like to see that personality.
“If the players take that out on to the field, it could be a really exciting time for Scotland. Whatever players Scotland have got, he can make them better. When Scotland played Wales in Cardiff last year, they were quite negative but they won’t be like that under Gordon. He’s quite a positive fella.
“I played against Gordon when he was at Manchester United and Leeds United. He was just a moaning little t**t! The clever thing he did was know every referee’s name, where they lived and what family they had. He’d chat away to them and basically ran most of the games we played. He worked under terrific managers and had the right schooling.
“He could excite the fans, because he wears his heart on his sleeve and sometimes you need that in international football. He’s also not German and that’s a good start for Scotland, isn’t it?”
Southall’s reference to Berti Vogts’ wretched tenure of Scotland, during which they were crushed 4-0 by Wales in a Cardiff friendly, may have more at home in a Stan Boardman stand-up routine. Certainly, the former Everton goalkeeper is never likely to be accused of political correctness. Southall, who holds the all-time Welsh appearance record with 92 caps, peppers his conversation with barrack-room language and has little time for diplomatic niceties.
He is scornful of the Welsh FA’s record in developing young players, insisting they should take no credit for the emergence of Gareth Bale as one of the finest players in the world.
“We are lucky to have Gareth Bale,” added Southall. “It’s not because he has been manufactured [by the Welsh FA]. He was always going to come through and be a good player. We are lucky in Wales that we have some players coming through now in spite of our system.”
Asked how Scotland could best handle the obvious danger Bale will pose to them at Hampden, Southall suggested a radical plan of action which is unlikely to feature in Strachan’s strategy.
“Kidnap him,” replied Southall. “Seriously, how do you stop him? How did anyone stop George Best? Or any of the great players? You probably double up on him. That’s if he plays wide. But he might play just behind Craig Bellamy up front.
“Gareth is learning about people doubling up on him. If you go to somewhere like Moldova, for example, there will be three of them all kicking s**t out of him. One of them will kick him and get a booking, then another one will do the same and so on. Six players will get booked for kicking him and Gareth won’t get a kick in the game.
“I don’t think Scotland will do that, in fairness. It will be interesting to see how they handle it. But, whatever you do, you can’t stop him taking free-kicks. Scotland will try to stop the supply to Gareth, maybe press the game higher up.
“If Scotland make the Welsh goalie kick the ball out, the chances are Scotland will win most of the headers.
“So the second ball will always be heading back towards the Welsh goal.
“But, if Scotland give Wales time to play, there are decent passers in the Welsh team. But if Scotland are right on top of Wales, it will work in Scotland’s favour. The Scottish central defenders should beat Bellamy and Bale in the air.
“But if Wales get into the final third, Scotland are going to have to be so careful. From any free-kick or set piece, Wales are going to be so dangerous. The game could be decided on a free-kick and Wales have a better specialist than Scotland in that department.
“I’ll be interested to see how Strachan approaches it. I think he has to press the ball. He has to win and set the tone for the crowd.
“If he does that, then Wales will struggle a little bit. But, if Scotland give Bale and Bellamy any time, then Wales will win.”
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