Hibs boss delighted Jim Jefferies in frame for vacant Scotland job

HIBS boss John Hughes today expressed his delight at seeing Jim Jefferies as one of the main contenders to be the next Scotland manager following the sacking of George Burley.

Jefferies and fellow former Hearts manager Craig Levein have both been listed among the favourites by bookmakers to replace Burley, who was axed last night after managing only three wins in 14 attempts during a troubled tenure that lasted less than two years.

SFA chief executive Gordon Smith has vowed to find "the best possible replacement" and Hughes, for one, believes Jefferies, his former boss at Falkirk, should be in with a strong shout.

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"I am delighted that he's in the running," said the Hibs manager. "I think being the Scotland manager would suit Jim, to tell you the truth. He's a man who always gets his team playing with a bit of spirit and has great experience, having been there and done it."

Hughes, who is "delighted" that his name isn't being quoted as he is happy to concentrate on the job he's just getting his teeth into at Easter Road, admitted he felt sorry for Burley, for whom the final straw came when his side succumbed so tamely when losing 3-0 to Wales in a friendly in Cardiff on Saturday.

He added: "I really do feel sorry for George. He's a man I like and have great respect for.

"I also know he's a right good football coach but, unfortunately, these sort of things go with the territory and it was a bad performance (in Cardiff on Saturday]."

In addition to Jefferies and Levein, Walter Smith's uncertain future at Rangers – his contract expires in January – means a dramatic return to the international fold cannot be ruled out, despite an acrimonious departure when he quit to return to Ibrox in January 2007.

Scotland's next match is the visit of the Czech Republic at Hampden on 3 March and Hughes reckons SFA chief Smith will get the right man for the job ahead of qualifying for the European Championship.

"Gordon Smith is a good football guy and I am confident he will get it right," said Hughes.

Smith himself said: "We now have four months until our next scheduled match, against the Czech Republic, and will utilise the intervening period to ensure we attract the best possible replacement to take Scotland forward."

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Burley was given a stay of execution only two months ago when he convinced SFA office-bearers he was still the right man for the job despite his failure to steer Scotland to a play-off spot for next summer's World Cup finals.

But an embarrassing and demoralising 3-0 defeat by Wales – which saw the Scots trailing by three goals in the opening 35 minutes – on Saturday resulted in renewed speculation over his future, with travelling fans inside the Cardiff City Stadium demanding his dismissal.

"The decision was taken after a meeting with the board of directors and, subsequently, the national coach," added Smith.

"The board was in unanimous agreement. It should be stressed that the decision was not a direct consequence of Saturday's unacceptable 3-0 defeat to Wales but, rather, a realisation that the expectations of the supporters, the Scottish FA and George, himself, were not being met."

Jefferies says he is "flattered" to be linked with the vacancy but refused to divulge whether he was interested in succeeding Burley.