No surprise Scot Gemmill is among favourites for Scotland job

Scotland Under-21 boss Scot Gemmill has established a solid reputationScotland Under-21 boss Scot Gemmill has established a solid reputation
Scotland Under-21 boss Scot Gemmill has established a solid reputation
It would be as convenient as it may be appealing for Ian Maxwell simply to walk along the corridor in the Scottish FA offices, knock on Scot Gemmill’s door and say “Do you fancy being the new Scotland manager?”.

Ever since he joined the association to take charge of the under-17 squad five years ago, making an instant impression by leading that age group to the European Championship semi-finals, Gemmill has steadily built a reputation as a bright and progressive coaching talent.

His subsequent body of work since stepping up as Scotland under-21 boss in 2016, while lacking in consistency, has done nothing to dispel the widely-held notion that the former Nottingham Forest and Everton midfielder is destined to manage his country one day.

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Whether that time is now, following the tortuous process which finally brought Alex McLeish’s second spell at the helm to an end on Thursday, is among the leading options open to Scottish FA chief executive Maxwell as he seeks the candidate best equipped to ensure Scotland make it to the Euro 2020 finals.

It is certainly no surprise that Gemmill is among the bookies’ favourites to succeed McLeish. For those who champion his credentials, comparisons with the hugely positive effect Gareth Southgate has had on the England national team are easy to make.

Both men are 48, both played for their countries, both are educated and articulate individuals who fit the identikit picture of a modern-day coach. Southgate’s move up from the England under-21 job to replace Sam Allardyce at the helm of the senior squad has been a resounding success story so far, bringing impressive purpose and direction to a team which reached the semi-finals of the World Cup last summer.

But in assessing whether Gemmill could be equally transformational as Scotland manager, it is perhaps wise to also analyse the differences in his career path when set against that of Southgate. The most obvious is that Gemmill has never managed at club level, while Southgate gained crucial experience of the pressure and scrutiny such a front-line role entails during his three and a bit years as Middlesbrough boss.

No managerial appointment comes without risk, of course, but however highly Gemmill is regarded by the Scottish FA, they would be taking a punt on his as yet untried capacity to cope with the unforgiving demands which come with the job.

Scrambling a 1-1 draw in Andorra with a 91st minute equaliser, as Scotland under-21s did last March, can be accepted as part of a learning process for a team which operates largely out of the limelight. It is quite another thing to deal with the ire of the Tartan Army and inquisition from the media after a poor result for the senior side.

There is historical precedent, though, to suggest Gemmill is a gamble which could pay off for Maxwell. Andy Roxburgh had never managed at club level when he was promoted from within to become Scotland manager in 1986 and went on to lead the country to two major tournament finals. His successor Craig Brown stepped up from the under-21s and took Scotland to Euro 96 and the World Cup Finals two years later.

The appointments of both Roxburgh and Brown were regarded with scepticism at the time, yet no-one in the two decades since has been able to match their level of success. So who is to say that the solution to the Scottish FA’s problem is not already on the premises?

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While sources close to Maxwell have indicated his intention to extend the search as widely as possible, he really shouldn’t have to look too far. If it isn’t an internal appointment in Gemmill or performance director Malky Mackay, then a short trip down the M77 to Kilmarnock will lead Maxwell to the most obvious and outstanding external candidate in Steve Clarke.