Scots look for new coach with Moyes in the frame
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