Hampden chief executive Ian Maxwell, his counterpart from the Scottish Professional Football League Neil Doncaster and SFA vice-president Rod Petrie all met at the National Stadium on Monday, with the rest of the governing body’s seven-member board dialling in for a conference call as tentative talks began.
It is the second time in six days that the Hampden hierarchy has held discussions, last Thursday’s get together spelling the end of McLeish’s second ill-fated stint in charge of the national team.
Kilmarnock boss Steve Clarke, Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, former Manchester United manager David Moyes and Sunderland’s Jack Ross are all now rumoured to be vying for the top job, with Scotland Under-21 head coach Scot Gemmill and SFA performance director Malky Mackay also potential candidates.
However, a firm decision could yet be some way off, with Monday’s talks understood to be aimed at setting out the headhunting process rather than choosing definitively the man who will be tasked with getting the country’s Euro 2020 qualifying bid back on track.
McLeish was axed last week after the board decided the team’s progress had stalled under his leadership.
While the former Motherwell, Hibernian, Rangers and Birmingham boss did successfully guide Scotland to a Nations League play-off slot, the 3-0 defeat by Kazakhstan in the opening qualifier for next year’s European Championship was branded the worst in the country’s footballing history.
But his sacking came only six weeks before Scotland are due back in action against Cyprus and Belgium in June’s crucial double header.
With the clock ticking, one option open to Maxwell and co is an interim appointment, which would allow candidates currently under contract elsewhere time to complete this season’s duties before taking over.
However, SFA sources say the board is keen to make their move as soon as possible.
“We can’t drag our heels again in the same way we did when we were chasing Michael O’Neill last year,” they said. “There is only a month and a half until we go to Cyprus so a decision regarding the interim appointment one way or another needs to be made quickly.
“But at the same time, there is no point rushing into a permanent appointment just to get someone in the door before June if it’s not going to be the best for the long run.”