O’Neill high on Scot­land’s wishlist after Stra­chan is shown the door

The Guardian - Sport - - Front Page - Ewan Mur­ray

Scot­land are un­likely to have a new man­ager in place be­fore the new year, with Michael O’Neill and Derek McInnes the early favourites to re­place Gor­don Stra­chan. The Scot­tish Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion’s board took the unan­i­mous de­ci­sion not to ex­tend Stra­chan’s con­tract, which ends next month, at a meet­ing yes­ter­day.

Stra­chan’s in­abil­ity to de­liver a play-off place for the World Cup fi­nals next sum­mer, de­spite a late run into con­tention, ul­ti­mately sig­nalled the end of a ten­ure which be­gan in Jan­uary 2013. A full de­brief from the SFA board in­cluded the key agree­ment that other coun­tries would not give their man­ager a third qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign after, as was the case, suc­ces­sive fail­ures.

Scot­land are set to play a high-pro­file friendly next month, for which they will have Malky Mackay in charge. Sources at the SFA have stressed, though, that their cur­rent per­for­mance di­rec­tor is not a can­di­date to suc­ceed Stra­chan per­ma­nently.

With Scot­land not due to play a com­pet­i­tive fix­ture un­til next Septem­ber, there is no im­me­di­ate rush to fill the in­ter­na­tional man­ager’s void. While a for­eign man­ager will not be com­pletely ruled out, the SFA wants some­one with in­her­ent knowl­edge of the do­mes­tic game and, if pos­si­ble, also in­ter­na­tional foot­ball.

O’Neill, who has taken North­ern Ire­land to a World Cup play-off on the back of qual­i­fy­ing for Euro 2016, is of in­ter­est to Scot­land but mat­ters are com­pli­cated by his cur­rent po­si­tion and, po­ten­tially, fi­nance. Should O’Neill, who lives in Scot­land, guide his coun­try to Rus­sia it is likely he will have high-pro­file club suit­ors. The SFA would also need to com­pen­sate its equiv­a­lent in Belfast and at least match a man­age­rial salary heav­ily boosted by re­cent suc­cess. McInnes, the Aberdeen man­ager, has sev­eral ad­mir­ers in po­si­tions of power hav­ing es­tab­lished his club as the sec­ond foot­balling force in Scot­land in re­cent times. The 46-year-old re­jected Sun­der­land in the sum­mer.

David Moyes was the book­mak­ers’ early favourite to suc­ceed Stra­chan and is thought to be keen on the prospect of man­ag­ing his coun­try. Although Moyes is in­stantly avail­able, there is con­cern within the SFA at the di­rec­tion of his ca­reer since he left Ever­ton.

In a state­ment an­nounc­ing Stra­chan’s exit, the SFA pointed to­wards the like­li­hood of a squad over­haul for the next qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign as pre­ceded by the Na­tions League. Mark McGhee, Stra­chan’s as­sis­tant, will also be de­part­ing. “Notwith­stand­ing our un­beaten run in the [World Cup] group through­out 2017, with the emer­gence of a younger gen­er­a­tion of play­ers it was agreed that a new na­tional coach should be re­cruited to pro­vide fresh im­pe­tus,” the state­ment read.

Stra­chan said his in­ter­na­tional post had been a priv­i­lege de­spite mixed re­sults. “I share the pro­found dis­ap­point­ment at miss­ing out on the play-offs, es­pe­cially hav­ing worked so hard to fight our way back into con­tention. I would like to thank each and every player who has come in to rep­re­sent their coun­try. To­gether we have shared some really mag­i­cal mo­ments and those mem­o­ries will live with me for ever.”

Stra­chan’s short­com­ings, page 3

Michael O’Neill, who took North­ern Ire­land to Euro 2016 and will con­test a play-off for a World Cup spot, lives in Scot­land

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