Exit Stra­chan

Scots look for new coach with Moyes in the frame

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - Roddy Forsyth SCOT­TISH FOOT­BALL COR­RE­SPON­DENT

David Moyes has emerged as the favourite to take over as Scot­land man­ager af­ter Gor­don Stra­chan’s ten­ure ended yes­ter­day fol­low­ing a sec­ond tour­na­ment qual­i­fi­ca­tion fail­ure.

A state­ment from the Scot­tish Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion said that 60-year-old Stra­chan’s spell in charge had come to an end “by mu­tual con­sent” but chief ex­ec­u­tive Stewart Re­gan added: “Af­ter al­most five years, the board felt it was time for a new di­rec­tion to pre­pare for the Uefa Euro 2020 qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign and also the forth­com­ing Uefa Na­tions League.”

Moyes, the for­mer Ever­ton and Manch­ester United man­ager, has been look­ing for work since re­sign­ing from his Sunderland post on May 22. Malky Mackay, who is al­ready em­ployed by the SFA as per­for­mance di­rec­tor, is an­other name in the frame and for­mer Eng­land man­ager Sam Al­lardyce has also been touted as a con­tender.

Al­lardyce, 62, who was sacked af­ter just one match in charge of Eng­land, de­clined to de­clare an in­ter­est in the Scot­land job when the pos­si­bil­ity was raised with him this week, say­ing “some­body [Stra­chan] is al­ready in that po­si­tion”. But he did not specif­i­cally rule him­self out.

It had ap­peared Stra­chan might sur­vive, as he did when the Scots fell short of qual­i­fi­ca­tion for Euro 2016. His win rate of 47.5 per cent from 40 games was bet­tered by only one of his 10 most re­cent pre­de­ces­sors as Scot­land man­ager – his for­mer Aberdeen team-mate, Alex Mcleish (70 per cent from 10 games) – and Stra­chan’s record this year was es­timable.

Four wins and two draws from six fix­tures, with four clean sheets and the only goals scored by any of the Group F con­tenders against Slove­nia in Ljubl­jana, took the Scots to the brink of a play-off place. Stra­chan’s team se­lec­tion against the Slovenes, how­ever, was the sub­ject of crit­i­cism be­cause he switched to a 4-4-2 de­ploy­ment which left the Scot­tish mid­field out­gunned in the sec­ond half, when they fell be­hind af­ter lead­ing at the in­ter­val.

The man­ager’s use of sub­sti­tu­tions was also con­demned and he stepped into a morass of his own mak­ing when, in try­ing to ex­plain that his op­tions had been re­stricted be­cause of a lack of height in his squad, Stra­chan cited the ge­net­ics of the Scots as a dis­ad­van­tage and sug­gested that taller Scot­tish women should ap­ply them­selves to pro­duc­ing bet­ter pro­por­tioned play­ers for the fu­ture.

The con­se­quent ridicule in news­pa­pers, TV and ra­dio was matched by scorn on so­cial me­dia. As one SFA source told The Daily Tele­graph: “It was not Gor­don’s finest hour.”

The longer view also yields un­flat­ter­ing com­par­isons with the achieve­ment of Wales, North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic of Ire­land in qual­i­fy­ing for Euro 2016 while the Scots, alone of the home na­tions, stayed at home. North­ern Ire­land, have again reached the play-offs un­der Michael O’neill, who lives in Ed­in­burgh, and whose re­sources are com­pa­ra­ble with those avail­able to Stra­chan.

What Scot­land do have is a core of six Celtic play­ers, two of whom: Scott Brown and Stu­art Arm­strong, were no­table per­form­ers, and whose ab­sence through in­jury did not help Scot­land or Stra­chan’s cause in Slove­nia.

Their club man­ager, Bren­dan Rodgers, ex­pressed dis­may at the out­come yes­ter­day when he said: “It was a missed op­por­tu­nity. There’s no doubt about that. It was clear the im­prove­ment the squad had made in, first, per­for­mance, and, sec­ond, re­sults.

“The frus­trat­ing thing about it is that it was a good re­sult, in terms of go­ing to Slove­nia, a team that hadn’t con­ceded any goals at home. And you go there and muster a point on the back of five other good re­sults.

“That sec­ond part of the com­pe­ti­tion was ac­tu­ally very good and that’s why it’s so frus­trat­ing, be­cause you’ve had 20 years of it. There is a gen­uine chance there be­cause there is a group of young, vi­brant, ex­cit­ing play­ers who have shown in an en­er­getic way that they can do the things you want at that level.” Asked for his view on Stra­chan’s com­ments about ge­net­ics, Rodgers said: “Who are the best play­ers in the world? Messi, Suarez, Hazard, Ini­esta, Ney­mar, Ver­ratti.

Ver­ratti is 5ft 6in but he’s not in con­flict with the ball. He keeps it. Scot­land can find a sys­tem­atic ap­proach to work in, to play in, so that if there are play­ers miss­ing, the next ones can come in, if you have a pro­file and a clear iden­tity – be­cause that’s what it’s go­ing to take, a col­lec­tive ef­fort. North­ern Ire­land lost against Nor­way but you could clearly see good or­gan­i­sa­tion and an iden­tity in the team. They have

cre­ated a spirit th­ese last few years and that also makes the dif­fer­ence.”

And that is why the SFA might wait to see how North­ern Ire­land fare in the play-offs be­fore rul­ing O’neill out as a po­ten­tial suc­ces­sor.

Fi­nal fail­ure: Gor­don Stra­chan’s team could man­age only a draw in Slove­nia

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