Gordon Strachan tipped for Scotland job

Gordon Strachan. Picture: Getty
Gordon Strachan. Picture: Getty
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Alex McLeish has ruled himself out of the running, but Joe Jordan is interested, as is Gordon Strachan.

Even if officials insist that next week’s friendly against Luxembourg is top of the agenda at present, these bulletins of news have given the Scottish Football Association something to digest as they contemplate the identity of Craig Levein’s successor.

The SFA has the luxury of time to make the right decision and judging from the comments made by Stewart Regan, the chief executive, on Monday night at Hampden Park, it intends to take it.

“Ideally we would like to have as many candidates as possible, candidates of high calibre,” he said. “We need to decide the specification of the manager we’re going to go after, then go out and try to find the person we want. That’s a process that we’ll discuss as a board.”

Even given Strachan’s popularity, and his position as clear favourite with bookmakers, Regan will be conscious of avoiding creating the impression that there is only one candidate that the SFA have in mind, as happened with Craig Levein. The then Dundee United manager’s appointment was railroaded through by then chief executive Gordon Smith and president George Peat.

This time, the SFA will aim to be seen to be more thorough. Although his time in office has been used to streamline the SFA’s decision-making bodies, Regan spent time on Monday night defending the role of the seven-man SFA board in deciding Levein’s fate. This same panel, including Tom Johnston of the Junior FA and Highland League mainstay Alan McRae, will begin discussions about Levein’s successor after next Wednesday’s friendly.

“I think we have a board that adds great value to the Scottish FA,” he said. “It is made up of a number of key representatives, including an independent non-executive director. There is a huge amount of different skill-sets. It is not just a business board, it is a football board as well.

“I have worked in a number of different organisations and I can assure you we have gone through this process with rigour, and we have arrived at the right decision for Scottish football.”

The right decision in this instance was perhaps the only one that was left to make once Levein’s intention to go at the end of this qualifying campaign was made clear to the board. Now, however, they are presented with a variety of options.

Strachan, however, has been quickly installed as the favourite, and he was given further recommendation by Neil Lennon yesterday.

The Celtic manager believes someone with his standing in the game is required in order to get the best from under-performing players.

First up, however, is Luxembourg. While it is a game they can see far enough, Scotland need to honour the commitment. In any case, it gives Billy Stark, who has been placed in temporary charge, a chance to stake his claim to be considered as a potential Scotland manager, although quite what constitutes an impressive result against Luxembourg – currently ranked 191 in the world – is a difficult question to answer. Even a multi-goal victory would be met with the response; yes, but it is only Luxembourg.

As one SFA insider said yesterday, Stark could do the Scotland job “while standing on his head”. While this is probably very true, it is doubtful whether Stark is considered “Hollywood” enough for the Tartan Army.

It is also unfair to judge Stark on this game alone, since it is likely that a proliferation of groin strains and ankle knocks will be sustained by players this weekend. The squad he names today could bear little relation to the one that flies out to the Grand Duchy.

Motivation is low among a group of players who were clearly fond of Levein, though Regan rejected the notion that any might consider taking the easy option of remaining with their clubs next week.

“There will be lots of people saddened and disappointed by [the] decision,” said Regan on Monday. “We’re disappointed that we had to make this decision. It’s tinged with sadness because of the hard work and professionalism that Craig’s shown.

“[But] the players have a responsibility when they pull on the blue shirt to do their utmost for Scotland.”

Gratifyingly, Celtic midfielder Scott Brown has pledged to be there, and his commitment is hopefully shared by his international team-mates. It is the very least that Stark deserves. First though, Brown does have two games from which to emerge unscathed, starting with tonight’s Champions League clash against Barcelona.

“We will rebuild and go again,” Brown said yesterday, as he reflected on the events of Monday. “I hope I am in Luxembourg. I’d like to go and see how I get on. Now I’m injury free I have no excuses.”

Next to Strachan, nearly every other candidate would seem a bit bland. His often acerbic humour would be a test for the reporters Charlie Adam believes helped hound Levein from his position.

However, Lennon did not agree with the Stoke City midfielder’s theory. Indeed, the Celtic manager didn’t spare the players, who he said had to be held to account for Scotland’s position at the bottom of Group A, after winning only two points from a possible 12.