Few tears shed as Davies opts out of Scotland job reckoning

IT IS tempting to view the news Billy Davies has turned down the opportunity to speak to the Scottish Football Association about the vacant managerial post as final, irrefutable proof of the position's diminished status, even given the recent improvement in the international team.

Not lucrative or challenging enough to ward off Birmingham City, and not, alarmingly, even able to entice someone ditched by a Derby County team set to break English Premier League records for abjectness this season. Losing Alex McLeish to the St Andrew's club less than a year after Walter Smith had abandoned his Scotland project for Rangers, was regarded as dispiriting enough, but now Davies has apparently allowed his representative to inform a newspaper he does not wish to take Scotland's interest any further. It can be interpreted as a blow – to Scotland's credibility.

It has led to a response from the SFA, understandably irked that Davies has taken this stance, and gone public with it. They now claim he was not on any short-list, nor was he offered the job. Which says, perhaps, everything that needs to be said about Davies, whose high opinion of himself has already left the locals in Preston and Derby with a not-always-favourable impression of him.

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But any initial disenchantment at this blanking of Scotland by Davies must also recede, to be replaced by relief. There is no doubt Davies was there or thereabouts when it came to naming McLeish's successor, but he wasn't carried to this point on a tide of public opinion. That's not to say a manager must be popular, and even Smith's appointment in December 2004 was not greeted with universal approval by the Tartan Army. But, ideally, the candidate should possess some gravitas in a role which has become ever more ambassadorial in nature. Davies would have had to seek to unify a nation. At times, particularly with Derby, he struggled to give the impression he was in it for anyone other than himself.

Always seeming to avoid eye contact with his interviewer, the message Davies gave during post-match television appearances is that he simply itched for confrontation. This battling, narky personality trait can be helpful in a competitive arena, but a Scotland manager is also required to be diplomatic. As the stakes grew ever higher in Scotland's last qualifying campaign, McLeish avoided the self-aggrandising rattle in which Davies appeared to excel. Even now, almost two years after he left Deepdale, he has again stirred up passion in Preston after giving an extensive interview to the Lancashire Evening Post, reflecting on his time with the club. The comments from supporters left below the online version don't all wish him luck with the rest of his career. Even his club captain at Derby, Matt Oakley, described Davies as "a right pain".

Davies may well have something else lined up, hence his decision to rule himself out of the Scotland running. If so, one imagines it is at a Championship club. It is in this division where Davies has proved himself as a manager, show-casing an impressive ability to turn a club's fortunes around, and quickly. But he twice failed on the big occasion – in the play-offs with Preston, before making it third time lucky with Derby. No-one, however, could claim his side were a superior footballing side to West Bromwich Albion, the team they defeated 1-0 thanks to Stephen Pearson's winner last season.

It was, though, still glory. But, while champagne corks exploded all around him, Davies decided to let off steam, and questioned whether he would still be around come the Premiership kick-off. It was a reaction which suggested one of two things: either he is a supreme perfectionist, with his eyes already fixed on the next challenge, or he is simply a born agitator.

The circumstances of his departure from Derby in November suggest it is the latter. Accusing your own chairman of not having spoken with you in three weeks and demanding further investment – Derby are, quite reasonably, more concerned with returning to a firm financial footing after running-up debts of over 50million – points to a lack of respect. His outburst at Wembley Stadium after the Rams had claimed their Premier League place, carnation still pinned to his best suit, also says a lot about him.

There is no question Davies is a passionate, talented man. Appointed player-manager of Motherwell aged just 33, Davies had to adapt quickly to the pressure of leading a collection of highly paid individuals, as Motherwell then were. Not only this, he had his chief executive not simply looking over his shoulder, but staring straight back at him in the dressing room. Pat Nevin, Scotland's first player-chief executive is a fan of his, as, too, is Craig Brown. The former Scotland manager pulled Davies in from his post-Motherwell wilderness, and made him coach at Preston.

Perhaps attracting him to Davies was his industry during the period he was out of the game. He seized the opportunity to take a self-financed sabbatical, and travelled Europe to study coaching techniques. He put the work in, and reaped the benefit in undeniably successful spells with Preston and, initially, Derby.

But his education is on-going, and the pupil needs further refinement. At 43, he perhaps considered himself too young for international management.

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Further down the line he might prove able to cultivate the support he clearly lacked on this occasion, with Scotland fans reluctant to rally around someone whose recent progress has left a bad taste in the mouths of many.