Another qualifying campaign ends with Scotland failing once again, but this time it is seemingly down to genetics according to manager Gordon Strachan as he tries to cover up his mediocrity with laughable excuses.
The 60-year-old, who refused to discuss his future, said: “We had to pick a team to combat their [Slovenia’s] height and strength. It’s a problem for us because we have to work harder for every ball.
“Genetically, we are behind. In the last campaign we were the second smallest, apart from Spain. Maybe we get big women and men together and see what we can do.”
The former Celtic and Middlesborough boss, who has been in charge since January 2013, but with two failed campaigns under his belt there are now calls for him to walk or for the Scottish FA to fire him.
The Scottish FA have refused to make a snap judgement on the future of Strachan, but with the board convening on Thursday to discuss his tenure as manager and the EURO 2020 qualifying campaign, one wonders how they can justify keeping him in his role.
Victory in Slovenia on Sunday would have secured a play-off place for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but the 2-2 draw saw Slovakia leapfrog Scotland into second place on goal difference. Sunday’s game may have ended Scotland’s hopes of qualifying but the start of the campaign was where the killer blow was dealt.
The first four group games saw Scotland secure a meagre four points, thanks to a 5-1 win over Malta and a 1-1 draw with Lithuania. Defeats against England and Slovakia were expected but the home draw with Lithuania was the killer, a game that Strachan dismissed as a ‘must win’. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but if we had won the Lithuania game Scotland would be revelling in a play-off place not watching on as the likes of Iceland qualify. Maybe the Icelandic’s have great genes though!
Is Strachan the best Scotland manager in recent years?
After 40 games in charge, with a win ratio of 47.50%, Strachan is surprisingly one of the best Scotland managers in recent years going by that stat alone.
His predecessor Craig Levein managed 24 games with a win ratio of 41.67%, while the likes of Walter Smith, Craig Brown and Andy Roxburgh managed win ratios of 43.75%, 45.07% and 37.70% respectively.
Other than Ian McColl, who managed Scotland between 1960-65 with a win ratio of 60.71%, and Alex McLeish managing ten games in 2007 with a win ratio of 70%, Willie Ormond is the only one close to Strachan with roughly the same number of games under his belt – 38 games in charge with a win ratio of 47.37%.
These stats however include the meaningless international friendlies and while the stats may prove Strachan to be one of the best managers in recent years for Scotland, his lack of flexibility and continued desire to ignore home-based players in form over average out-of-form Championship players has infuriated the fan base and pundits alike.
Sunday proved that Strachan will not shift away from the veterans that failed Scotland numerous times before. A fresh face is needed in the hot seat and one who will bring through the next generation of players and ditch those that have failed time and again.
While I cannot see the Scottish FA sacking Strachan given the rhetoric from the players and some other quarters, with many in the support Strachan’s days are numbered so who is the next in line?
This question may be redundant by Thursday night if the Scottish FA decide to give Strachan one more shot, a decision that will not sit comfortably with many including yours truly, but with the usual suspects named in the press and the bookies – the possible contenders are less inspiring than keeping Strachan in the job.
In my opinion there is no Scottish coach/manager capable enough to take us to a major tournament and we must look abroad for our next appointment – even with the ghost of Berti Vogts still lingering around Hampden.
But at least Vogts got us to a play-off, the same cannot be said for his successors.
Scottish online bookmaker, McBookie, has listed David Moyes as 3/1 favourite to replace Strachan. The former Everton manager has failed to cover himself in glory since leaving Goodison Park with failed stints at Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland. Can the Tartan Army get behind him? I doubt it very much.
SFA Performance Director Malky Mackay is second in the list on 6/1, but given he was just appointed to his role at Hampden I cannot see them sanctioning a move to the national team and having to start from afresh with the Performance job.
Derek McInnes, Alex McLeish and current Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill are also contenders, while Scotland number two Mark McGhee is sitting at 16/1 to take up the post a decision that would see the Tartan Army revolt in the terraces.
My contender and one who has been on my mind for the job since the days of Burley and Levein is former Icelandic and current Norway boss Lars Lagerback. He helped Iceland to EURO 2018 after helping to reinvigorate their national team – which included yet another victory over England.
Following his departure from Iceland after the EUROs – and at a time when Strachan should have been shown the door after that failed campaign – Lagerback was appointed the manager of Norway on February 1st on a contract that would see him remain with the Scandinavian side until the end of 2019.
His first match in charge was an uninspiring 2-0 defeat to Northern Ireland in Belfast, but that was followed up with two 1-1 draws against Czech Republic and Sweden, before a 6-0 defeat to Germany in Stuttgart was sandwiched between victories over Azerbaijan and San Marino. Norway’s campaign ended with a 1-0 win over Northern Ireland in Oslo and finishing the group six points behind the Irish who secured the play-off place.
Just like Strachan, Lagerback started half way through the qualifying campaign and will be given the EUROs, but in my opinion Scotland need to approach their Norwegian counterparts and snap up the Swede – a man who can help to shore up Scotland’s defence and blood the new generation of players that must come through or Scotland will face further years in the footballing wasteland.
He may not be the cheapest or most attractive appointment for the Scottish FA or Tartan Army, but he will certainly do a job for Scotland and one in which – in my opinion – he will excel at.
Failing that we could just follow Strachan’s advice and get some German, Italian, Spanish and Brazilian women pregnant and convince them to sign an agreement that their kids must play for Scotland when they are older.
Written by Andy Muirhead