Half of the 44 players that Gordon Strachan has called up to the national team in the last 12 months will be 30 or above by the time the World Cup in Russia rolls around in 2018. If Scotland gets there then that would likely be the first and last major international tournament that the majority of the elder statesman play.
Whether the former Aberdeen winger leads us to the fringes of Europe for the first taste of summer football in 20 years, he will be gone for the 2020 European Championship campaign, with that I have little doubt.
Yet, it was important that he stayed at the helm for this qualification process as he will be overseeing the end of what has been the main crop of internationals for the last eight to 10 years. This allows for another manager – whoever they may be – to take over with a clean slate and a new generation of players, whether that is on the back of a high or rebuilding once again to reach a summer competition (well Winter if we have to wait to Qatar) rather than sitting on our arses and watching it from home.
The one argument that was plastered everywhere was that Strachan failed. On the face of it of course he did. While stats do not lie, they can be manipulated to suit one side of the debate. Scotland’s only disappointing result of the last qualification process was away to Georgia, which cost us the third spot claimed by Ireland. That is not a complete disaster when comparing it to Scotland’s past failings. It was the best outing had from a footballing point of view since the Alex McLeish and Walter Smith tenure when they tried to reach the 2008 European Championships.
Another stick to beat Strachan with is the fact that he rubs people up the wrong way with his talk of I only take to “real people” and he is a hypocrite when it comes to the media – which is why they get on his back quickly – because he does not play the game that they way him to. And yes I can understand why that grates when things are not going well.
His team selection is often questioned, I think it is good in the main. Although I have a few disagreements but not many I would get on my soap box about. However, the ones I do not understand are: how Graeme Shinnie cannot get a call up when defensive midfield is not a position we are blessed at. His preference for Chris Martin over Ross McCormack or even Jordan Rhodes when he was banging goals in the Championship also bewilders me. Yet, that is two instances in a squad of 23 players.
He needed to see this through and stabilise what had been and excuse my French here, but a fucking shit show under George Burnley and Craig Levein which set Scotland back between 2008 and 2012. What would be the point of giving him one proper campaign then shifting him on when the improvements on and off the field were so blindingly apparent.
Anyway by Autumn 2018, one way or another Gordon Strachan will be gone, whether he will be remembered as a hero or another failure in the eyes of us Scots.
List of players that will be 30 or older in 2018
GK Allan McGregor, 36
GK Craig Gordon, 35
GK David Marshall 33
GK Scott Fox, 31
DF Gordon Greer, 37
DF Steven Whittaker, 34
DF Alan Hutton, 33
DF Christophe Berra, 33
DF Charlie Mulgrew, 32
DF Russell Martin, 32
DF Lee Wallace, 30
DF Paul Caddis, 30
MF Shaun Maloney, 35
MF Darren Fletcher, 34
MF James Morrison, 32
MF Craig Bryson, 30
MF Ikechi Anya, 30
MF James McArthur, 30
MF Robert Snodgrass, 30
FW Steven Fletcher, 31
FW Steven Naismith, 31
FW Ross McCormack, 31
Bold indicates those over 20 caps.
Italics indicates those called up to the latest squad.
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