Walter Smith: Gordon Strachan is still best man for Scotland

Former Scotland manager Walter Smith yesterday joined the ranks of high-profile figures calling for current boss Gordon Strachan to be given more time to turn the team's World Cup qualifying campaign around.

Walter Smith, pictured, is backing Gordon Strachan. Picture: John Devlin

The former Rangers manager, however, admitted that a continuation of current form in next year’s ties cannot be tolerated.

The backing Strachan has received both from within his squad and the wider football community is understood to be edging him towards staying on in the wake of Friday’s 3-0 Wembley defeat to England.

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That result eaves Scotland fifth in their six-team World Cup qualifying section.

It appears the SFA board will not push Strachan to quit if he seeks to stay on as national manager – in contrast to his immediate predecessor Craig Levein, whose sacking became inevitable when he lost all support.

Smith believes that a new man, even with four months before Slovenia visit Hampden for Scotland’s next Group C encounter, would be in a poorer position to make the decisions required to revive Scotland’s hopes of making the play-off for Russia 2018.

Smith pointed out that Strachan had got such decisions right not so long ago, in the early stages of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

“I still think that Gordon is the best man to handle things until the end of the campaign. He is the person who’ll have the best idea how to transform our fortunes,” said Smith. “Any new manager coming in would want to experiment and, four games in, I don’t think that would be the best thing. 
Gordon is the best man to carry it on.I don’t think it makes any sense to change the manager. We had some terrific performances in the Euro 2016 qualifiers and, while we haven’t reached that level again yet, Gordon remains the natural choice to fix that.

“With the national team, you don’t get a regular view of how your players are doing as a unit – they just come to you every few months and then they play. It might Gordon a little bit of time to work out how he changes things but I don’t see any point in bringing someone else in instead of him.

“When you look at the section, England are the favourites after taking ten points from four games. The hope was that Scotland would have been up there in second place but we find ourselves four points off that at the moment and that means we’re under pressure to pick up points in the remainder of the campaign.

“There’s still a possibility that they can finish second. If they can recapture that form of two years ago then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be the runners-up, even though that wouldn’t guarantee a play-off.”

Smith agrees Strachan has an added difficulty in this campaign with a number of his squad hardly playing between internationals.

Smioth added: “If you are thinking about why they have not played as well this year that is a reason. Most of them were playing for their teams this time last year, this time they are not,” Smith said.

“It gives Gordon an awkward circumstance in having to make an assessment about who to play and what they can do. It is a hell of decision when you are not able to look at a player playing for his team every week, yet you still feel he is the best man to play for the country. It is maybe symptomatic of what is happening to our country at the moment.”