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