Wee, angry and ginger; all stereotypes linked with the Scottish. Yet, they all match the genetic traits of the national team manager.
What we learned from the post-match press conference is that Gordon Strachan has enough of an understanding of Biology to throw in a buzzword that attracted much more attention than his defiances throughout the campaign on a wide scale basis.
Sadly, that is about all that he is willing to divulge in these press conferences; a nonsense line that does not explain anything about why Scotland fail all too readily to beat the lower rank seeds and qualify for major tournaments. Oh, and he is not thinking about himself while having sympathy for the players (who he says do not get paid to be away from their families).
What boils the piss of an increasing number of the Tartan Army is that he rarely provides them the modicum of respect as they travel the thousands of miles to support the team (not being paid while being away from their families) without getting so much as an acceptable answer to most media questions.
Now, if, Strachan had progressed the national team to the next stage of both the Euros and World Cup qualification he could be as belligerent as he wanted to be with the media and it would be a footnote in his managerial obituary. For example, his former manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, was renowned for being prickly with the press at Manchester United. However, he is remembered for revolutionising that club into a worldwide entity because he garnered accolades. Strachan is not.
The former midfielder can put the point forward that he is the best manager the country has had since Craig Brown (a case can be made for Alex McLeish, but he had a better squad and were beaten by Georgia, when a win would have qualified them for Euro 2008).
McLeish and Strachan are not the only ones to helm the disappointment of succumbing to a minnow though. In an effort to get to Euro 2004, Berti Vogts could have toppled his nation of birth, but suffered defeat to Lithuania and drew in the Faroes.
World Cup 2010 (George Burley) and Euro 2012 (Craig Levein) were missed opportunities to get to the playoffs by failing to pick up maximum points against the minnows; situations apropos to Strachan.
Sometimes you just have to admit that they were not good enough, such as the draw being particularly unkind for the road to Euro 2000 and World Cup 2002 then sometimes there are complete right-offs, such as the messes that were World Cup 2006 (Vogts) and 2014 (Levein).
Even with the bedding in process of saving face in the last World Cup qualifying campaign, Strachan has failed to get what is an average Scotland to atleast the playoffs due to the same problem for the last 20 years, dropped points against inferior opposition.
The best argument for the former Celtic manager having to go is because this was the end of an era of players. Of the 39 players he called up in 2017, 16 of them were 30 and older; seven of them 32 and older. Now that is not to say because you are over 32 you are done, but as a nation there should be a freshness with a new pool of players that do not have the stigma of continued failure. That does not mean chasing Christophe Berra (32), Darren Fletcher (33) and David Marshall (32) out of the national team, but the next manager should be aiming to identify players with their similar attributes to replace them over the next four year cycle.
Whoever takes the post should also be looking exclusively at players from the Premiership, Premier League and Championship in England and the assorted talent scattered around Europe: Jack Harper (Spain) and Ryan Gauld (Portugal). More importantly though is that they should be picking the correct players on form. Not just because Matt Phillips plays for West Bromwich Albion (Premier League) instead of James Forrest at Celtic (Champions League).
Being loyal and favouring one league over another is a flawed trait that halted Strachan in not inserting players into the line-up quick enough. Leigh Griffiths is the go to example. The Celtic centre forward never started until the game at Wembley, preferring Chris Martin (Derby County/Fulham) or Steven Fletcher (Sheffield Wednesday). Four goals and three assists in five and a half games followed from Scotland’s next 11 goals in 2017.
It appeared as though he begrudgingly selected Callum McGregor for the last couple of fixtures, even with a large spat of injuries to the central midfielders. In addition, when the game was needing pace in the middle of the park after the Slovakia win, he never saw fit to include John McGinn. Now, would the Hibernian midfielder have had an affect on the outcome of Sunday’s result, perhaps not, but at the very least he would have injected the pace that was missing with the absence of Stuart Armstrong.
His tactics also failed him. He believed that Slovenia would play 4-4-2 and that is why he looked to match them up, instead of lining up the way which had worked for them this year, and what Srecko Katanec played: 4-2-3-1.
He could have played Fletcher and James McArthur in a two; Fletcher man marking Josip (man of the match) with McArthur picking up any threat from Jasmin Kurtic. Barry Bannan could have played as a attacking midfield and put pressure on Rajko Rotman. Ideally, he should have positioned McGregor in that role to try and keep Kurtic from advancing forward due to the Celtic midfielders’ pace. In this scenario, he could have started with the directness down the flank of Forrest.
The Scottish FA should be looking for a candidate that is not ashamed of picking players from less glamorous clubs, if they are the right option. Just recently, Michael O’Neill selected Callum Morris of second tier Dunfermline Athletic and Shay McCartan of third tier Bradford City into his squad.
Now, if players are good enough to represent Northern Ireland at the Euros from Doncaster Rovers (Luke McCullough), Fleetwood Town (Conor McLaughlin) and Notts County (Roy Carroll) then why should there be sneers from a nation that has gone 10 consecutive tournaments without qualification by selected a player from Dundee (Scott Bain) or Motherwell (Chris Cadden), if they are the right fit on form.
The early betting favourites for the job: Alex McLeish David Moyes, Paul Lambert and Sam Allardyce all have heavy links with the English game, especially over the last decade that may mean they look past the domestic product, preferring those that make a living south of the border, just because they play south of the border. I believe that would not be the case for the aforementioned Norn Iron manager.
O’Neill would likely take the job on the basis that even if he took his nation to the World Cup, then, like Scotland, it would be the end of a generation of players. He has called up 29 players over the last 12 months. 10 of them over 30, six of them over 32.
Even those gems, such as: Chris Brunt (32), Johnny Evans (29), Gareth McAuley (37) and Steven Davis (32) are getting on, and the next generation are not coming from the top tier sides across Britain.
O’Neill is comfortably based in Edinburgh and will regularly be at a Scottish game most weeks, so he will be overly familiar with the ones he believes should be in the national team pool for Scotland already.
At the very least he will bring a freshness and a proven track record of getting a national team to a major tournament. A trait that has not come with a Scotland manager since Berti Vogts who won Euro 1996 with his native Germany. Perhaps that positive mentality rather than the woe betide us attitude that looks for excuses should be one of the most important traits of the next Scotland manager’s make-up, whomever they may be.
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