Gordon Strachan set for crisis talks with SFA

Gordon Strachan is aware of concerns
Gordon Strachan is aware of concerns
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Gordon Strachan will hold talks about his future with the Scottish Football Association in the coming days following Friday’s 3-0 defeat by England at Wembley.

The result leaves Scotland fifth in a qualifying group where even second does not guarantee a play-off place. The next qualifier is not until March, when Slovenia are the visitors to Hampden Park.

It is understood Strachan, who turns 60 in February, is alert to the growing clamour for change among supporters and will sit down with SFA chief executive Stewart Regan to discuss the next move.

But it is growing increasingly likely Strachan has managed Scotland for the last time and he is set to step aside to hand someone else the chance of salvaging the team’s rapidly fading World Cup qualifying hopes.

The manager was back in the Midlands yesterday having returned home directly after Friday’s dispiriting defeat at Wembley. It is Scotland’s worst at the stadium since a 5-1 loss in 1975.

In a briefing with Sunday newspapers, Strachan stressed that all he wanted was to put the smile back on the faces of the Scottish people. But he was alert to the darkening mood among supporters.

“I have an understanding of what’s going on,” he said. “I am not daft.”

He found it impossible to concentrate on speculation about his own position while the pain of defeat was still so fresh.

“I am 59-years-old,” he said. “It might be different if I was 35. But all I want to do is get people to a tournament and enjoy it. I want to get those players to a tournament and enjoy it. That’s all I want to. It’s all-consuming and when something is all-consuming, it’s very hard to bring something [Strachan’s own position] else into it.”

Strachan added he would speak to Regan “whenever he wants a chat”. Asked whether reaching Russia in 2018 was still a realistic possibility, the manager replied: “Course it is.”

But it could be that someone else will be charged with the task of leading Scotland to a major finals. Support is growing for Michael O’Neill, the Edinburgh-based manager of Northern Ireland, to be approached if and when Strachan leaves.

O’Neill signed a new four-year contract extension shortly before his team’s success in qualifying for the last 16 at Euro 2016. There is understood to be a £750,000 release clause.

However, Austin MacPhee, O’Neill’s trusted assistant, is among the candidates to be interviewed later this month for the role of SFA’s performance director, a position left vacant after Brian McClair’s departure in July.

He is vying with John Collins, Malky Mackay, former Celtic chief scout John Park and Alan Irvine, the former West Bromwich Albion manager.

Northern Ireland were ranked 129 in the world shortly after O’Neill took over in 2011. They are now 26th and are currently lying in a play-off place in a group including Germany and Czech Republic after Friday night’s 4-0 win over Azerbaijan.